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Women In Sport Series: Interview with Ashleigh Werner

Posted: 22-May-2019 by Maccabi NSW

By Amanda Penkin

Ashleigh Werner is the first to be profiled in our Women in Sport series

Ashleigh is a world class bob sledder – a feat made all the more special as we don’t have a lot of ice and snow in Australia! I was fortunate to have an inspirational chat with her and here are some of her words of wisdom for any current, wannabe and should be WISes (Women in Sport).

Q:  What got you involved in your sport and why do you keep at it?

I was pretty lucky that I was born into sport - my parents had me swimming from a young age and it was just something I always did. I definitely think this has been of key importance to my achievements and passion as I genuinely could not imagine my life without training. I keep at it because, I love pushing my mind and body to its limits and seeing what I can achieve. I love the feeling of sweating and being tired - it feels like I have really worked hard and earned that pain. I love the mental aspect of sport and learning more about what my body can do. I love seeing how far I have come when I know I have worked hard to get there. Exercise and sport has made me into the person I am today and has taught me key skills such as leadership, goal setting, self-motivation and sacrifice. Oh, and most importantly... its just so much fun! I love the social aspect of sport as well - most of my closest friends are people I train or compete with! I have met some of the most incredible and inspirational people all over the world and the community really helps keep you. It fosters a familial love that I cannot get enough of. 

Q: What advice would you give your younger self regarding your interest in sport?

DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM BECAUSE IT SEEMS DIFFICULT! My goal was always to go to the Olympics. When I turned 14 and quit swimming, it seemed like I was never going to achieve it, so I put that dream on the backburner and turned my focus to school. I kept playing sport but it wasn't until year 10 that it began to ramp up again and I remembered that dream. Fast forward to me at age 22 realising I could again go to the Olympics for 7s and working towards that goal and then more recently making the switch to bobsled and understanding that every single day now, I am working towards a dream I never imagined could be a real one. It has been a dream 22 years in the making, but it is now a realistic goal of mine. I have the words 'YOU WILL GO TO THE 2022 BEIJING WINTER OLYMPICS" on a post-it note on my wall and every morning when I wake up, I see it. So, at 4:00AM when my alarm goes off, that's the first thing I see, and when I go to bed, it’s the last thing I say to myself. It’s crazy how full circle it has come but I am so happy that I never gave up on it or listened to people telling me it wasn't possible.

2. EVERYTHING YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH HAS PREPARED YOU FOR WHERE YOU ARE TODAY. Being an athlete from a young age is incredibly hard. You have to sacrifice friends, parties, late nights and social aspects in order to make sure you are ready to train and compete at your best. Not only that, but I had to sacrifice university at times, other sports, and even family events in order to be away competing or to get me one step closer to my goals. I remember one of the hardest moments was sitting in the French Alps during 2018 Olympic Qualification year, on the phone to my parents after I had missed my cousin's wedding because I was so upset, I couldn't be there. The pain, the sacrifice, the hardships, the 4:00AM starts, the strict diets, the missing out on teams... it hasn't been easy, but I can definitely tell you that it has made me the strong, persistent and resilient PERSON I am today.

One of the most influential conversations I have had in my life was with my (now) best friend who said to me:
Ash, does it make you angry to know that you sacrifice everything and work so hard to achieve what you have, and there are people like me who don't really work that hard but get everything we want anyway?

I thought about it for a moment and then replied:
“No, it makes me sad for you, because you will never know the feeling of accomplishment of giving it everything you have, sacrificing everything possible and working harder than you ever have before and achieving that goal.”

Q: What do you see as the benefits of participating in sport?

First and foremost, it has to be the social aspect. The people you meet and work out with can definitely make or break how much you enjoy it, but you can also acquire the most amazing friends. Most of my close friends are people that I train with or compete against and I love that we have such common ground. Not only that, but when we do get to spend time together, it's usually doing something active like rock climbing or going for a walk which is really nice. For me personally, I have found the skills in leadership, goal setting and self-motivation to be some of the best benefits I have acquired. These are skills that not only lend itself to being your best on the rugby field, in the bobsled or in training, but also to my university study and work life. For me, these have been incredibly honed by being involved in sport and its something I continue to work on every single day. Along with this, just the energy and endorphin rush you get when working out is unparalleled. I am always leaving training with a smile, no matter how hard the session has been... and that's saying something!

Q: Tell us a little about how you set and stay disciplined to try and achieve your goals?

A huge part of my sporting career is goal setting. As a bobsleigh driver, I have to have my own personal goals, as well as manage those of our team as a whole. I have to train, recruit, plan, search for sponsorship, and work full time, so having clear and concise ideas of what I and we want to achieve means I am always aware of what I am working towards. I think people can get stuck in the notion of know what they KIND OF want to achieve, but I find when you have it written down somewhere, or you tell someone, it becomes real, and as such, you have a much better chance of making it become a reality. It can be hard to have the discipline to watch my diet, go to bed early, get up at stupid times and push myself to the limits, but it helps when every day I know what I am doing it for. I think goal setting and discipline go hand in hand - its incredibly hard to have one without the other!

WOW – Maccabi WIS wishes Ashleigh all the best with her Olympic goal. And we can tell no matter what, she will keep plugging away until she gets there. Stay tuned for our next in the series – Anne Besser will highlight that you don’t have to be young and have an Olympic dream to get the most out of exercise and sport.

Carnival 2020


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