Alison Shanks' individual pursuit comes to end

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2014
Alison Shanks
PETER DRURY/ Fairfax NZ
FINDING NEW GEARS: Alison Shanks is changing pace as she steps down from competitive cycling.

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You give it your all or you give it all up, and that's exactly what Commonwealth Games gold medallist Alison Shanks is doing.

Shanks, 31, announced her retirement from track cycling yesterday, after a career that included two World Championship gold medals, and her 2010 Commonwealth Games success.

''Ever since the Oceania Champs in November it's been playing on my mind a bit,'' Shanks said of retirement.

''I had hip surgery in June, and since then I haven't really been able to get on top of my performance again.''

After the surgery to repair a labral tear in her hip socket, Shanks has been battling. She's also had nerve problems which will not die down.

She said she came to the difficult decision with coach and husband Craig Palmer.

''It's the way Craig and I have always worked.

''It's either 100 per cent or nothing, and I just know I'm not going to be in the sort of form for the Commonwealth Games that I'd be proud of.''

Shanks started cycling in 2005, and quickly moved up the ranks, qualifying and placing fourth in the individual pursuit at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Her times continued to improve leading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and she again narrowly missed out on a medal with a loss in the bronze medal race.

In 2009, Shanks won her first World Championship title by defeating Northern Ireland's Wendy Houvenaghel in Pruskow, Poland.

The blistering pace she was showing on track continued into 2010, and she again defeated Houvenaghel in the Commonwealth Games final in Delhi, India to claim the gold medal.

Shanks struggled to battle her hip injury in 2012 during her London Olympics campaign, but did win her second World Championships gold medal in the lead up in Melbourne, Australia.

''It's been my life for the last 10 years, so to step away from cycling has been really tough. The people you meet and the places you travel to is always exciting,'' she said.

''What I won't miss? There's those gruelling training sessions I might not miss, and some of that long haul travel, but I may come to miss that stuff in the end.''

To make the retirement decision harder, Shanks said she is missing out on a new era of New Zealand cycling which is unfolding right now.

''It's made the decision so much harder with the Avantidrome going up, and I have ridden the track in the last few weeks.

''It's an amazing facility, and it has made it harder knowing there is this new era of cycling beginning.

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''But then I know that my personal performance isn't up to standard, so it's my time to go.''

Shanks was on New Zealand Olympic Committee ambassadorial duties yesterday at Ngatea Primary School in the Waikato, and said she will continue to inspire children in schools.

Retirement will also allow her more time to work with sponsors Volkswagen and Avanti, and she admits she will spend plenty of time around the new Avantidrome in Cambridge.

''Craig is a coach with BikeNZ and is based there, so I'll be around,'' she said.

''I'll still jump on my bike. That's the great thing about cycling, is that you can always do it, and I'll definitely be getting out there when I can.''

- Stuff

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