Kristina Vogel speeds around the track in a blur and with the self-confidence of a champion. She spoke to DW about the about the burden of being the favorite and why she's not much of a tactician.
DW: It is often said that it is difficult to win a gold medal at the Olympics but even harder to repeat. Is this true?
Kristina Vogel: Defending it is always more difficult than winning it. Before you win the first time, you're usually an underdog. You just turn up and do your thing. Defending it is difficult because the focus is on you, there are high expectations and opponents prepare to compete against you specifically. The others study your tactics and your preparation. And of course, there is a lot more pressure from outside. Sometimes more than you'd actually like.
You have done a lot of winning since your gold medal in London. How has this changed your standing in track cycling?
My hard work has taken me to a different place in the cycling world. If you can get past me you are assured of winning a medal. It's as simple as that. A lot has changed compared to four years ago.
How do you deal with being the favorite?
Sometimes it is quite difficult. Many of my opponents have changed their approach against me. When they are up against me, their body tension is different and they are more aggressive. You'll have to beat me to be successful.
'The track suits me'
Are track events at the Olympics different from the events elsewhere?
Definitely, you could see this in London. The competition for the gold medal is incredibly tight. The times of the top riders are very similar. I'm ready, I feel good, now I just want to get started.
The velodrome at Rio was brand new when you arrived, in fact, it wasn't even completed. How fast is the new track?
You can tell that the surface is new. I would have preferred a track that is a few years old. Then the wood would be harder and faster. But if the track is well maintained, it could become a very fast track. And it suits me. I like the tight corners and the long straight-aways. But I am not sure we will see any world records. Possibly in the team pursuit, but not in the other disciplines.
In London, Miram Welte and Kristina Vogel surprised everybody by winning gold. In Rio this wouldn't be such a surprise
You will be competing in the sprint, the keirin and team sprint. Which event will you be focusing on most?
I am equally motivated for every discipline. I cycle at full throttle every day, I hold nothing back. I'm not great when it comes to tactics, I just go for it. And I think that is the best thing you can do in my discipline. If I had a choice, then like to win gold in the sprint, because that is the pinnacle on the track. It would be great if it happened this year, but I still have the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, which will probably be my last Games.
'The Chinese and Russian women are forces to be reckoned with'
In London, you and Miriam Welte won gold in the team sprint. How do you see your chances this time around?
The competition has become stronger in recent years. The Chinese the Russian women are forces to be reckoned with. Both teams have very good individuals who work well together. But a lot of things have to come together for you to win Olympic gold. So we have a chance too. We are hoping for a medal. Our goal is bronze; anything else would be a bonus.
You said before the Games that you face drug tests on an almost weekly basis? Is this true for your competitors?
I really don't feel like speaking about Russia. What can I do? I have to compete against them one way or the other. But the Russians are not the only ones who could be cheating. Nobody really knows. As long as there is no positive test, there is nothing you can do. I just hope that WADA creates the same conditions in all countries.
At just 25, Kristina Vogel has been the dominant figure in women's track sprinting for years. The Kyrgyzstan-born German won her first world championship as a junior and hasn't stopped winning ever since. The highlight of her career so far was winning the gold medal along with Miriam Welte at the London Olympics in 2012. However, things haven't always been plain sailing. In May 2009, she was seriously injured after being hit by a car during road training. She was in a coma for two days, but she was back on the bike just three months later. Vogel is the current keirin world champion.
The interview was conducted by Joscha Weber.