Upperlands native Houvenaghel quits competitive cycling

Wendy Houvenaghel, Rainey Endowed School's sole Olympian.
Wendy Houvenaghel, Rainey Endowed School's sole Olympian.

Olympic medallist Wendy Houvenaghel from Upperlands has announced her shock decision to retire from cycling – just hours before the start of the Commonwealth Games.

Houvenaghel revealed an injury picked up in training had forced the 39-year-old to call time on her glittering career.

The multiple world champion has withdrawn from the Glasgow games – which open today – and will now focus on her profession as a dental surgeon.

It is a cruel blow for the highly decorated cycling star, but Houvenaghel believes the time is right to retire from international competition.

“The past decade of my life has been dedicated to professional cycling and it has, for the most part, been extremely rewarding,” she said.

“I have always dedicated myself 100 per cent to my role as a natural professional sports person and I am immensely proud of my consistently high achievements from the beginning.

“It is disappointing to have to withdraw from competition at the Commonwealth Games, however, I would like to wish my Northern Irish teammates every success with their performances in Glasgow.”

During a stellar cycling career, Houvenaghel claimed a silver medal in the individual pursuit at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and three World Championship Gold medals in team pursuit in 2008, 2009 and 2011 respectively.

Also included in her impressive silverware haul is a silver medal in individual pursuit for Northern Ireland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and numerous other British and European championship titles in both track and road disciplines.

Houvenaghel missed out on a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London after she was left out of all three team pursuit races as Dani King, Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell won gold in a world record time.

Houvenaghel later claimed she had been denied a gold medal by coach Shane Sutton’s “very unjust” decision to leave her out.

“It is never easy to make the final decision to end one’s sporting career,” she added last night.

“For me, this decision has been prompted by a training injury, but I will be returning to a profession which I thoroughly enjoy and where, as a woman in my thirties, I will be treated as an equal.

“I would sincerely like to thank all of the people who have supported me over the past 10 years, especially my family, my friends, my fans and my sponsors. In the future, I hope to put something back into the sport but for now I am looking forward to pursuing my career in Dentistry.”