AS the row continues over Wendy Houvenaghel losing out on a gold medal at the London Olympics, local politicians have thrown their support behind the former Upperlands woman.
The 37-year-old was denied a chance to ride on the Team GB women’s pursuit team and left the velodrome half-an-hour before her three team mates clinched gold.
The DUP’s Ian McCrea said he was bitterly disappointed that Wendy was denied what would have been Northern Ireland’s first Olympic gold since Mary Peters’ win at the Munich Games.
“I was delighted to see the GB women’s team win gold, but felt bitterly disappointed for Wendy that she wasn’t part of the final team and that she wasn’t given a medal, even though I believe there was a fourth Gold Medal for the fourth contestant,” he said.
“The most baffling issue is that Wendy was faster during the trials and her times were faster than the final time of the team that won Olympic Gold. I’m not fully aware of how the teams are selected but it is concerning that when someone like Wendy with times that she had and with so much training and effort put into her preparation for the Olympics can then be left out.
“Having known Wendy especially during our years at the Rainey and following closely her spectacular career, I think I speak for Mid Ulster in saying we are proud of her no matter what.”
Ulster Unionist Assembly Member, Sandra Overend said that there are “definitely questions that need to be answered.”
“Like many other proud Mid-Ulster individuals I was glued to the Olympics on Friday evening to look out for our very own local Olympian, Wendy Houvenaghel,”
“Wendy was due to take part in the Women’s Cycling Team Pursuit. While I’m no expert in the Olympics, I did wonder why Wendy wasn’t part of the team, nor did we hear anything about her! I have since talked to Wendy’s Mum who confirmed that Wendy was bitterly disappointed that she wasn’t part of the final team and that she wasn’t given a medal, unlike the USA team of four who all were given Silver Medals.
“Furthermore, I was shocked to learn that Wendy made a faster time in the line-up during the trials, faster than the other riders. And in fact her timing was faster than the final time of the team that won Olympic Gold.
“I strongly feel that questions need to be asked about how the team was selected to compete and why better decisions had not been made to enable Wendy to also receive a Gold Medal – I understand that there was a fourth Gold Medal for the fourth contestant, but this was not given to her.”
Magherafelt District councillor, George Shiels accused Team GB of age discrimination against Houvenaghel.
The councillor said, “Wendy has been very shabbily treated in these Olympics and in my opinion was misled by the Team GB cycling manager Shane Sutton.
“I believe she is a victim of ageism. Wendy is 37-years of age but has been repeatedly returning better times than her team – mates. Her performances in the lead up to these Olympics Games, has been outstanding and surely this factor is what ‘The Games’ are all about – the best performance wins through.”
Councillor Shiels says though, that the real crime against Wendy has been one of deceit. “What I am hearing from Wendy is that she was led to believe she would get a ‘run out’ at some stage, she has been quite clear on this point. In that case she has been misled, and that is unforgivable.
“I wish Wendy well and I know she will get over this, though she won’t see that at the moment. I see a bright future for her in another role yet to be determined, perhaps as a television sports pundit.”