Wendy Houvenaghel tonight hopes to take a massive step towards bringing an Olympic gold medal home to Northern Ireland — before returning to her profession as a dentist following London 2012.
Houvenaghel competes for Great Britain in the team pursuit at the World Championships at Apeldoorn in the Netherlands.
The track star from Upperlands, Co Derry, sees today’s action as a crucial staging post on the way to going one better than the silver medal she won in Beijing.
“It is my dream to bring an Olympic gold medal home to Northern Ireland and I am working steadily towards that goal,” said Houvenaghel last night.
“I am aiming for gold in London. That would be the pinnacle of my sporting career.
“The Olympics being held so close to home is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to make the most of it.”
Houvenaghel is confident that Great Britain can come out on top against the world’s best today.
“We are in very good shape and the win is possible,” she added.
“This is another crucial stepping stone towards the Olympics which is the long-term goal.
“It is a good opportunity to race against the best in the world.
“Our main rivals would be Australia, New Zealand, the USA and possibly the Germans.
“But we tend not to think too much about the opposition and just focus on being as good as we can possibly be.
“These World Championships and also those next year are very valuable competitions to be competing in.”
Houvenaghel, whose Olympic silver medal came in the individual pursuit, a discipline discontinued after Beijing, added: “Next year’s World Championships will, after all, be less than six months from the Olympics.
“Taking part in a new event is very exciting and a breath of fresh air. I am enjoying it very much. I am also thoroughly enjoying being part of a team.
“I have much more experience now. In the lead-up to Beijing I had very limited experience as I was new to the sport.
“I had two years to go from being a novice, with no background in cycling in terms of pursuit, to being on the podium.
“I did that in two years, so I feel that the run-up to London is much better because I know what I am doing. I am better prepared this time around and that gives me more confidence.
“I feel much more relaxed in my approach to the London Olympics.
“In Beijing we had such great success that it has put cycling on the map in this country.”
Houvenaghel will be 37 by the time London 2012 comes around and revealed she has been considering her return to dentistry.
“At the moment I can’t really see past the London 2012 Olympics and will make a decision about my future after the Games,” she said.
“But I keep up to date with dentistry by attending courses, although at the moment the practical side of things is on hold.
“I would envisage going back to dentistry eventually.”