Victoria Pendleton has revealed she resorted to self-harm at low points during her career, cutting her arm with a pair of nail scissors after a confrontation with her coach during the Beijing Olympics about her relationship with British Cycling sports scientist, Scott Gardner.
The recently-retired multi-gold medal winning track cyclist relives the incident in her upcoming autobiography Between the Lines, serialised in The Sunday Times. It wasn’t the first time either, having cut herself with a Swiss Army knife while struggling to deal with the loneliness of training in Switzerland.
“I did not sit down and decide, consciously, to cut myself. It was almost as if, instead, I slipped into a trance,” she wrote. “I held the Swiss Army knife in my right hand, feeling the solid weight, as if it promised something beyond the empty ache inside me.
“I did not want to kill myself. I just wanted to feel something different. Pressing down harder, I had a sudden urge to make myself bleed.”
The BBC documentary, Victoria Pendleton: Cycling’s Golden Girl, which aired shortly before the 2012 Olympic Games, showed how she was pushed hard by her father Max, a former racing cyclist himself, during her early years. The book goes into more detail, revealing her struggles to please him.
“Dad dealt in clear and simple truths,” she added. “He never told you that you were better than you were — even to boost you at your most vulnerable. Dad just expected you to do your best every single day.
“He was tough but, when I pleased him, I felt radiant with happiness. I knew how much it meant when Dad said he was proud of me.”