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Bobsleigh girls drawing inspiration from the best

Published 6 October 2017 (AEDT)

BOBSLEIGH: The Australian Women’s Bobsleigh Team are on the hunt for 2018 Olympic qualification drawing their inspiration from those who have come before.

For one member of the team, Breanna Walker, preseason 2017 featured no ice as the 25-year-old trained in sunny Brisbane, learning from triple Olympic Bobsleigh pilot, Astrid Loch-Wilkinson.

“This time in Brisbane was a game changer,” Walker said.

“Astrid shared with me her many years of bobsleigh experiences and we got in some great push start and weights training over the four weeks.

“Not only that but she started getting back in touch with some of her old bobsleigh contacts and we now have so many people, all over the world, willing to help our team out throughout this season.”

Walker then joined teammate Ashleigh Werner in Melbourne where the pair trained at the Ringwood athletics track under the guidance of 2006 Olympian, Shane McKenzie.

Werner said the sessions have been tough with hill sprints, sand sprints and bounding sessions all regularly on the program. 

“It’s all about building as much explosive power as possible,” Werner said.

“Our push sessions are awesome because they simulate the ice house and it gives us some great training to make the most of the Australian Winter.”

But Walker said it was the girls’ relationship with McKenzie and his expertise that has been the most beneficial on their journey to PyeongChang 2018.

“Over the past year, Shane and I have created a great Athlete/Coach relationship and I believe that’s how I have been able to make these massive improvements in such a short amount of time,” she said.

“Surrounding myself with experienced ex-Olympic bobsledders has given not only me but given my team the leg up we need heading into this season.”

Walker admitted that qualifying for the PyeongChang 2018 Games will not be easy.

“Being new to the sport we are still a fresh team with a lot to learn, but we are all very eager and have plenty of people willing to help us achieve the goal of qualifying.

“In saying that, I think it’s very achievable.

“I've never been one to shy away from a challenge and I know my teammates are the same so we are going to pull out all stops to make sure we give ourselves the best opportunity to qualify our team for PyeongChang.”

For Werner and Walker, the idea of becoming a Winter Olympian was not even on their radar two years ago, with both focused on making the Games for their respective sports of Rugby 7s and Athletics.

“If you had asked me, even 2 years ago, did I think I would have a chance at making the Olympic Games, I probably would have laughed,” Werner said.

“It's something I was working towards but never really thought I would get that opportunity.

“To actually be trying to answer questions like ‘what would going to the Olympics mean to me?’ is crazy because... it literally just means everything to me.

“I don't even think there are any words for how badly I want to be representing my country at those Games and every time I think about it, I get tears in my eyes,” the Sydney-sider said.

With the 2018 Games their immediate focus, the pair know their future is now firmly cemented in the sport of Bobsleigh.

“These Olympics would be an amazing stepping stone for us as a nation,” Werner said.

“Our team, although obviously is doing everything we can to get there, is trying to remind ourselves that 2022 is where we want to make a splash. We are in it for the long haul and we are all hoping this is one of many!”

Werner and Walker have just joined fellow teammate Mikayla Dunn in Calgary, Canada where they will undergo team testing and pilot selection camp. The trio will then travel to Whistler to attend another development camp, before competing in the first North America Cup of the season.

For the Aussie women to qualify for the PyeongChang Olympics they will need to be in the top 16 on the IBSF Ranking List during the 2017/2018 qualification period, which will be finalised by 14 January 2018.

If they’re not in the top 16 they may be able to obtain a quota place if there is no Oceania continental representation.

Ashleigh Knight

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