Kathy Watt became Australia’s first female cycling gold medallist when she won the 181 kilometre road race at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. She later completed a remarkable double by winning silver on the track in the 3000m individual pursuit event. Watt, small and tough of spirit, had always been an all-rounder. Her father, Geoff Watt, was a fine marathon runner, and an adventurer who climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. She too was a distance runner, a national junior champion, before chronic tendon problems forced her to quit the sport. She qualified for both the road and track events in Barcelona, but the coaching staff of the Australian Cycling Federation insisted that she train exclusively for the road race. She was thus unable to practice on the track for three months, until the three days between the road and track events – she made no secret of her frustration about this, arguing often with head coach Charlie Walsh.
Watt’s comparative anonymity, competing against cyclists with huge reputations, benefited her in the road race. She was not considered a threat, and, while the heavyweights were duelling, she was able to slip away unnoticed from the main pack with one circuit to go. She took the lead and stayed in front, crossing the line 20 seconds ahead of the four-time world champion, France’s Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli. In the semi-finals of the individual pursuit she downed another quadruple world champion, American Rebecca Twigg – but was beaten in the final by Petra Rossner of Germany. Dawn Fraser described Watt as “the most focused athlete at the Games”.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian