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24 Aug 2004
Athens 2004

Golden oldie Muenzer thrives on borrowed wheels

Lori-Ann Muenzer only took up cycling at the age of 23, but quickly made up for lost time and by the time she arrived in Athens 15 years later, she had amassed 11 World Cup medals and 13 Canadian titles. She was hugely experienced, but at the age of 38, did she still have the strength and stamina to compete against top-class cyclists who were little more than half her age.

Indeed, Muenzer was the oldest female cyclist competing in Athens, and Canada had never previously won a cycling gold at the Olympics.

In the early rounds, it seemed that luck was against Muenzer as she blew two disc wheels and, having already used her one spare, had to resort to asking rival countries for their help. It was a request that produced a fine example of the Olympic spirit in action.

Both Australia and France had cyclists with serious medal hopes, and both teams must have known that by refusing assist Muenzer in her hour of need, they would have increased their own athletes’ chances. Instead, each donated a wheel. Muenzer continued in the competition with a front wheel borrowed from the Australians and a rear wheel provided by the French!

In the quarter-final, she comfortably beat Venezuela's Daniela Larreal 2-0, to set up a semi-final against the brilliant young Australian world champion Anna Meares. Meares’ raw pace prevailed in the first heat and many thought that Muenzer – 18 years her senior - would not be able to recover.

They were wrong. The Canadian won smartly to level the score at 1-1 and then bravely won the decider to move into a final showdown with Russia's Tamila Abasova. That turned out to be much less close than her battle with Meares, and Muenzer clinched the gold with a 2-0 victory.

She returned to Canada to celebrate with her coach Steen Madsen, who had been unable to afford the cost of travelling to Athens. She retired the following year to become a motivational speaker.

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