Anna Meares (Cycling)
Back in 2008 there were some murmurs about giving the Gillian Rolton Award award to Anna Meares when she "only" won a silver medal. It seems that the judges were more swayed by the act of fracturing her C2 vertebra in a 65 kph pileup, thereby coming within a couple of millimetres of being paralysed from the neck down. (Not to mention the dislocated right shoulder, torn ligaments and road rash.) After which she came back and won the silver in the sprint in Beijing behind a British cyclist called Victoria Pendleton.
So 2012 meant going to London to visit Queen Victoria in an attempt to redress this situation. Meares started off by winning a bronze with Kaarle McCulloch in the team sprint, but then botched the kieren, the event in which she won gold in the world championships. Meares finished second last, and in tears. Pendleton wound up winning.
Meares fought her way back into the final sprint, in which she once again faced Pendleton, who had announced that this will be her last race before retirement. How do you beat a rider who is unbeatable coming from behind? Don't let her come from behind, for a start. In the first race for the best two out of three, Meares managed to force Pendleton into leading. In the final straight, Pendleton veered 10cm off the track before winning by the width of a road bike tyre. Unfortunately, the judges ruled Pendleton's move illegal, and awarded the race to Meares. In the second race, Meares again forced Pendleton to take the lead. When Pendleton started to wobble around the second turn of the last lap, Meares fired up and took the race, and the gold medal.
For her disregard for pain, injury, and the expert advice of the medical establishment in her quest for an Olympic medal, Anna Meares is awarded the Gillian Rolton Award.
Atlanta, 1996. Gillian Rolton (Equestrian): Horse riding with broken ribs, broken collar bone.
Sydney, 2000. Lauren Burns (Taekwondo): Fighting with pins in her fingers, reconstructed legs.
Salt Lake City, 2002. Alisa Camplin (Aerial Skiing): Skiing with concussion.
Torino, 2006. Alisa Camplin (Aerial Skiing): Skiing with reconstructed knee.
Beijing, 2008. Anna Meares (Cycling): Cycling after breaking her neck. (details...)
Vancouver, 2010. Torah Bright (Snowboarding): Snowboarding with concussion, after fracturing jaw (details...)
* male athletes are eligible instead for Bill Roycroft Award