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If we watched more track cycling outside the Olympic schedule, we would be speaking about Anna as one of our greatest ever athletes. No question.
If we watched more track cycling outside the Olympic schedule, we would be speaking about Anna as one of our greatest ever athletes. No question.

Anna Meares: Even a broken neck couldn't stop her

As we head towards Australia Day and remember this country's legends, our friends at Bundaberg Rum give you the chance to put forward your memories of our sporting greats. Hit us up in the comments field below and tell us your favourite story about Queensland cycling legend Anna Meares.

Meanwhile you can nominate your own local sporting legend and win prizes for yourself and them. More info here.

Anna Meares is one seriously fast bike rider.

She not only has thighs as thick as tree trunks - perfect to generate the kind of power needed to thrive in track sprinting - but she has this inner drive only elite athletes can manage to muster.

That's why she has been so successful in her sport.

Meares puts most blokes to shame with her strength and power.

She can generate more than 1800 watts of power in a bike sprint. That's enough to power a small home.

She can also jump up onto a 110cm tall box from a standing start and squat 145kg, or about three Tour De France cyclists.

If we watched more track cycling outside the Olympic schedule, we would be speaking about Anna as one of our greatest ever athletes. No question.

Adam Hourigan

But because we only recognise Olympic athletes as champions once they win gold medals, Anna has been elevated by the Australian sporting public to legend status.

Anna has two Olympic gold medals, won eight years apart.

In Athens, she became the first Aussie female gold medallist in track cycling, winning the 500-metre time trial.

Then in London, she beat long-time rival, Britain's Victoria Pendleton, in the sprint event at her home Olympics in front of a rabid Pommy crowd to claim her second gold medal in epic circumstances.

On top of the gold medals, Anna is also one of Australia's toughest ever athletes and has the most ultimate comeback story to prove it.

In January 2008 and just seven months before the Beijing Olympics, she broke her neck in a horrific track accident at the World Cup in Los Angeles.

The crash, at 65kmh, broke a vertebra, dislocated her right shoulder, tore ligaments and tendons and scraped off skin from all parts of her body.

The injuries would have ended most careers, let alone a shot at Olympic glory.

Not Anna. She ditched the neck brace and wheelchair to be back in the saddle 10 days later to start training for Beijing. That in itself is a legendary effort.

And not surprisingly, six months later, Anna fronted up to Beijing to ride for gold.

Somehow she claimed a silver medal in the sprint event, but the fact she even made it that far solidified her legendary status amongst Australians.

It was arguably the greatest silver medal ever won by an Aussie and the most courageous effort by any athlete in our Olympic history. She should have been lauded for that, medal or not, and she was.

Anna Meares hasn't really received the kudos she deserves for her outstanding talents and all-round toughness, and though now she lives in Adelaide, we salute her as a true Queensland legend.

Make your own Aussie legends