Photo gallery: Norwich’s tearful Emma Pooley has no reason to feel down
Norwich cyclist Emma Pooley was left in tears at missing out on a medal at her home Olympics – but in truth, she should not endure one moment getting down on herself.
A silver medal in Beijing’s road time-trial four years ago came as a complete surprise alongside a vital role in Nicole Cooke’s gold. It was the stuff of dreams.
And while the 29-year-old former Norwich High School for Girls pupil wanted so much to deliver on home soil in Wednesday’s race against the watch at Hampton Court, a combination of factors Pooley is far too magnanimous and modest to state herself made the fine margins drift against her.
Barely being able to get out her sentences through the tears, Pooley’s sixth finish after an encouraging start came from her giving everything he had – on a course lacking the one thing she needed.
“I was really pleased to help Lizzie (Armitstead) in the road race – I just wish we could have gone up Box Hill in the time trial,” said Pooley – who was once again key to a road race medal as she supported Lizzie Armitstead’s silver success.
“I did my best. I’m not sure who won but whoever is quickest wins and you can’t really whinge about the course because it’s the same for everyone. I don’t know where I came. I just know I didn’t win… so I’m a bit disappointed.
“I don’t know how much the road race affects the race today. Everyone in the race did the road race on Sunday, so it’s not really something I would blame. It’s just the way it is. It’s just the difference between winning and not winning.”
Pooley will have hoped to be winging her way to Norwich on Thursday with a medal in hand, as she helps celebrate her mum’s birthday in the city.
But Armitstead, who finished 10th in the road time-trial, feels the former Norwich School sixth former should hold her head high.
“I’m so disappointed for her, especially after the work she put into the road race for me,” said Armitstead. “She’s been really determined and I’ve seen the work she has put in over the year.
“She couldn’t quite pull it off today and it wasn’t to be. But this is the Olympic Games and maybe she just needs to go back to her local club and kick a few people’s backsides and make herself feel good about herself again, because she certainly has nothing to be ashamed of.
“She is a fantastic athlete and I could not have got my silver medal without her.”
Pooley was keeping pace as much as she could over the first check point at 9.1km of the beautiful 29km course around Hampton Court.
But once she came across the line second in 38 minutes 37.70 seconds, putting her 40 seconds behind long-time leader Russian Olga Zabelinskaya at the line with five more riders to come, it looked a long shot for Pooley to leave with a medal.
In the end she finished sixth, more than one minute off the gold-winning time of American Kristin Armstrong with Germany’s Judith Arndt taking silver and Zabelinskaya’s time good enough for bronze. The road race victory for Marianne Vos left her 16th and out.
And while the pain will take some time to subside, such fine margins were always going to be influenced by the profile of the course. Pooley won’t say that – but it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
“You always have to push your hardest and I did,” added Pooley. “I don’t think I could have gone any faster. In time trial you can’t affect anyone else. I’m really disappointed but if someone else is faster than you, you can’t do anything.
“I have never had so much support and have never heard so much noise on the road.
“It’s not my ideal course, but you do not get to choose that.
“Everyone has put a lot into it. I suppose I was more disappointed because I had a medal chance.
“That’s the mistake of being an optimist. Perhaps I should be more pessimistic. I do find the counting medal thing a bit depressing.
“The thing the people come to watch is the story and the competition. The medals on a table I don’t give a monkey’s about. We did our best and that’s what people came to see.”