Most recently, Victoria Pendleton found fame as an amateur jockey, achieving her ambition of riding in the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2016. Indeed, she confounded her critics by partnering Pacha Du Polder, trained by Paul Nicholls, into a fast-finishing fifth, beaten 2¾ lengths. That feat she described as ‘probably the greatest achievement of my life’, which was praise indeed, considering that, in her earlier career as a professional track cyclist, Pendleton was a former Olympic, World and European champion.
At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Pendleton won the gold medal in the women’s sprint, setting a new Olympic record in the preliminary 200-metre time trial and beating Australian Anna Meares 2-0 in the gold medal match. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she once again faced Meares in the gold medal match in the women’s sprint, but was relegated after winning the first race of the best-of-three series, lost the second and had to settle for a silver medal. However, by that stage, Pendleton had already won her second Olympic gold medal in the women’s keirin.
At the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Track Cycling World Championships, Pendleton won the first of her six gold medals in the women’s sprint in 2005 and repeated the feat in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. She also won gold medals in the team sprint, with Shanaze Reade, in both 2007 and 2008 and another in the women’s keirin in 2008. Not altogether surprisingly, Pendleton was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to cycling in 2009
and ‘promoted’ to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) four years later.