Houvenaghel grits teeth in push for Olympic glory

Houvenaghel grits teeth in push for Olympic glory

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The dental surgery awaits aspiring Olympic Champion Wendy Houvenaghel after the London Games.

But before returning to her chosen career, Houvenaghel is determined to experience the elation of victory in the three-woman, three-kilometre team pursuit in the capital in August. Houvenaghel has made numerous sacrifices in her bid for gold and to go one better than in Beijing, when she claimed silver behind team-mate Rebecca Romero in the 3km individual pursuit - an event in which she has also finished second in the world (twice) and the Commonwealth.

Events at the London velodrome are her primary focus but the Northern Irishwoman plans to resume pulling teeth post-Games.

"There's a lot I need to think about the future but at the moment I can only think about the next few weeks and months and the Olympic Games," Houvenaghel told Press Association Sport.

"I'd imagine at some point in time I'll pick up my dentist drill again and resume that career.

"I have been keeping up to date and I will look forward to getting back to that again, just when remains to be seen."

While changes to the Olympic programme, including the removal of the individual pursuit, contributed to Romero's retirement, Houvenaghel redoubled her efforts in search of gold.

Houvenaghel has been a full-time athlete for six years and at 37, she is 14 years older than the next oldest rider in the four-woman squad who race the team pursuit - Joanna Rowsell is 23, Dani King 21 and Laura Trott will turn 20 next month. Their presence has reinvigorated Houvenaghel, who last October moved to Manchester for final preparations for London, leaving husband Ian at home in Cornwall.

Houvenaghel added: "I'm totally committed to attempt to win the gold medal with my team-mates in August and there are many sacrifices I've had to make along the way.

"Now my focus is better than ever before and I'm excited about making the most of the next few months."

Four into three means one rider has to miss out and it was Houvenaghel who was omitted after the qualifying ride at February's Track World Cup in London, with Rowsell, King and Trott combining to take gold in a world record of three minutes 18.148 seconds in the final. Coach Paul Manning and British Cycling's management were keen for all four riders to compete in London and Houvenaghel was philosophical about her omission.

She added: "It was important and it makes us stronger as a team now that everyone has raced under race conditions on the Olympic track.

"It was a fabulous achievement and it would've been great to have been part of that performance.

"But I'm convinced we're going to go much faster in the months leading up to the Olympic Games. There are big things to come."

Houvenaghel's influence on the team pursuit is impossible to understate.

The UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne, which begin on April 4, will be the fifth occasion the event has been on the programme, with Britain winning three of the previous four titles. Houvenaghel has been part of all three triumphs and combined with King and Trott to win the world champions' rainbow jerseys in Apeldoorn in 2011. Houvenaghel is targeting a faster ride in Australia than in London and believes it would provide a major boost in morale, while also denting that of their rivals, if Britain again claim world gold.

"We are aiming for a better performance again in Melbourne," she said.

"It would certainly give us more confidence than ever before (to win the world title). It might intimidate the opposition to some extent.

"But what happens in London on August 3 and 4 is everyone's focus."

Indeed, everything is about the Olympics, but Houvenaghel has tentative plans post-Games, after "a few days off" and is targeting a medal at September's UCI Road World Championships time-trial in Limburg, Holland. There is the prospect of competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and starting a family but while there are numerous future possibilities, they all hinge on one thing.

"A lot of that will depend on how the Olympics goes," she said.