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World Track Championships - CM
Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004
Tales from the track
News and gossip from day 2 of the Melbourne World Track Championships
By Karen Forman in Melbourne
Mendez wants to take gold for Mexico
At 30 she is one of the more senior female cyclists at Melbourne's Vodafone Arena for the 2004 World Track Championships, but Mexican Belem Guerrero Mendez isn't letting extra years give her extra stress as she prepares for the women's points race on Saturday.
Mendez, who is ranked number one World Cup point score champion and was number one in the world in 1998 and 2000, is extremely hungry for the gold medal in her specialist event.
If she wins, it won't just be a win for herself and her family, but also, she says, for the women of Mexico City, where she lives. An inspiration, if you like, for other girls to follow in her footsteps and give cycling a go for their country.
"Few girls race in Mexico," she said, "it's not very common. There may be more now because of our results at international level but there were not so many when I started."
She first climbed aboard a bicycle at the age of 10. Her father was most supportive, driving her to racing and she says she worked harder than most of her male counterparts. At 14 she started contesting the Pan American games and as a senior won the bronze medal at the World Championships in Perth in 1997 in the points race. The following year she won the silver at Bordeaux in France.
She took the bronze at the Mexico worlds in 2001, was equal fourth in the Sydney Olympic Games with a German rider and was seventh in the Sydney World Cup a fortnight ago.
But so far, gold medals have evaded her. Obviously, she wants to change that, while continuing to try to inspire other women. "I think cycling is a very good sport for girls to do," she said, "It makes you a better person. It looks after you physically."
She says the Australian and the Russians are her major rivals and was concerned that the Russian current world champion Olga Slyusareva (who has held the title since 2001) hadn't yet arrived in Melbourne when she spoke to Cyclingnews. "She has to qualify for the Olympics in Melbourne, so she must be coming."
Mendez said a good points race rider required character, discipline and intelligence and she loved the event because of its challenges. She's also passionate about her sport and says even when she retires, she will stay with cycling, probably as a trainer helping junior riders.
"But first I would like to know that I have competed to the best of my ability," she said. "Then I will have something to teach them. I will do everything possible to get to the Olympics in Athens. Everything it takes."
More Day 2 News from the Melbourne World Track Championships
By Karen Forman in Melbourne