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July 31, 2019
How adapting to change led me to a gold medal
By: Ashleigh Werner

Congrats to Ashleigh Werner, one of our amazing Grads, who recently won gold in the women's monobob event at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) 2018–2019 season. Her journey as an athlete required discipline, perseverance and teamwork—the same qualities that are helping her to excel in her career. Here's her story.

Sport has always been a part of my life. When I was younger, I was a swimmer and a track runner before getting into netball and touch football. I also love rock climbing! More recently, I was a professional rugby league and high level rugby 7s and 15s player before I came into bobsleigh in the 2016–17 season.

Women’s bobsleigh is traditionally a two-woman event, with two athletes in the sled. In the lead up to the Beijing 2022 Games, a new discipline has been introduced—monobob, which only needs one athlete. This season, I competed in both disciplines.

In the 2017–18 season, I was a brakewoman, focusing on trying to qualify for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. After qualifying for the Games, we were subsequently refused nomination, so I was a little confused about where to go. Should I return to bobsleigh and try for the Beijing Games or should I go back to rugby?

At the time, my coach asked me to attend training in Lake Placid and transition from brakewoman to driver. After my first day on ice, I was completely hooked—I knew driving was for me.

The 2018–19 season was my first one as a pilot, taking my own team away. It was an incredible experience, and we ended up making history for Australia! In the two-woman discipline, we actually had one of Australia’s most successful seasons in recent history, finishing 2nd overall on the North American Cup Circuit and securing a 22nd place on the current World Rankings.


Taken during the competition (Photo by RJ Photography).


What I learned from my sports career

Honestly, a bobsleigh season is a lot of change management! You have to be prepared for things to go wrong, because they always do, and you have to keep calm and ensure all stakeholders are taken care of—myself, my athletes, my coach, any sponsors, etc. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.

  1. It’s not about having no fear, its about being able to recognise the source of your fear and use it to fuel you. I would definitely be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous at the top of a track even though I’ve taken hundreds of trips.
  2. You have to continuously be looking forward. When you are on the track, you can never change a mistake you have made in the past, but you have to be able to understand how your exit of one curve or entry of another will affect you and the sled later down the track. It doesn’t matter what you have done; the most important rule is to always look and focus forward!
  3. Teamwork makes the dream work! Your team is sacred—you perform, train, dream, achieve, eat, sleep, travel, laugh and cry together. Each other’s pain is your own and when the team wins, every member benefits from it. Being able to learn how to lead a team of incredibly different people in a crazy, ever-changing sport and environment like bobsleigh was very tricky, but it was a genuinely humbling experience. The pride I felt for my team was unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced, and the family we now have is crucial leading forward to how our team performs on and off the ice.
  4. Set goals. If you do not know what you are working towards, you cannot be the best in achieving it. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with one big goal like “qualifying for the Olympics”, but if you can break it down into reasonable steps to get there, the task doesn’t seem so impossible and you can objectively see where you should be putting your energy at what times.

I always find that every time I go away on a season, I learn something new about myself, the sport or leadership. My life is (obviously) not exactly normal, so working at Accenture felt like the right choice. I wanted a company that wasn’t going to try and make me fit into that mould. As an employee, feeling valued only makes me work harder and it was crucial for me to work with a company that I felt I could relate to.


Winning the gold medal!

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