London 2012 Olympics: Houvenaghel relishes chance to lead young team-mates

Qualified dentist Wendy Houvenaghel can appreciate what it is like to wait for an appointment as she and her Great Britain team-mates prepare for Friday’s team pursuit at the Olympic Park Velodrome.

The 37-year-old from Northern Ireland has been in final preparations at the British track team’s Newport training camp for London 2012, watching on as Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France and the road race teams took part in competition on the opening weekend of the Games, with Lizzie Armitstead winning a silver medal on day two.

Houvenaghel, who in 2009 combined with Armitstead to win Track Cycling World Championships team pursuit gold, is now eager for action, with her event taking place on the second day of competition at the velodrome. The 37-year-old, who won individual pursuit silver in Beijing in 2008 before the event was removed from the Olympic programme, said: “We can’t wish for the competition day to come around fast enough. We’re ready to compete.”

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Houvenaghel will wait until after her second Olympics to assess her future, but she intends to make a return to dentistry. The three-time world champion is set to compete in the three-woman, three-kilometre event – new to the Olympic programme – alongside Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott.

Cornwall-based Houvenaghel is 14 years the senior of 23-year-old Rowsell, with King aged 21 and Trott 20, but age is not a consideration. Houvenaghel said: “It’s not really something I think about too much because we’re in the present and as a team we are going faster than ever.”

For the first time in April, Houvenaghel was not part of the British team which won the world title for the fourth time in five attempts and considered taking the first flight home from Melbourne before being persuaded to stay. “What happened in Melbourne for the team was a great success,” she said. For me personally it was a disappointment that I wasn’t involved. However, I’ve moved forward and as a team of four we’re very positive and are now ready to race. It helped make me even more determined than ever to go ahead and be the best I can be for our team. All four riders will be very valuable.”

King, Rowsell and Trott combined to clock a world record of three minutes 15.720 seconds in winning gold in Melbourne, reaching 3mins 15secs ahead of schedule. Houvenaghel was coy on the form since, but expects the world record to tumble again when competition begins. “We’ve been doing very well in training,” she said. “I would imagine that that figure will come down. We’ll be aiming to push the barriers and raise the bar as high as possible.”

Australia were second at the World Championships, with Canada third and New Zealand fourth, while the United States should also be in the medal mix in the latter stages of the event on Saturday. Australia’s Melissa Hoskins said: “They (Britain) are the team to beat. Not only do they have home soil advantage, but they have proven that they are the strongest team in the world. To beat them the whole team is going to have to be on song.”