TAKE a deep breath and strap yourselves in for a thrilling ride, because Ashleigh Werner is set to become Australian Jewry’s answer to Cool Runnings.
The Sydneysider’s sprinting ability has earned her a rare place in Australian sport – selection in the national women’s bobsleigh team, which has a real crack at qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Japan.
Often described as ‘a Formula One race on ice’, the start is absolutely critical in bobsleigh and involves the brakeman and pilot pushing a sled at up to 40km/h off a standing start.
After hopping in, the pilot is responsible for steering the sled through tight bends and along straights at speeds of up to 140km/h.
A talented swimmer, sprinter and rugby player, Werner, 24, said she dreamed of representing her country at an Olympic Games ever since she was four, but never imagined her big chance would come in a Winter Games sport, let alone “in one of the most insanely amazing, scary and death-defying sports ever created”.
The UTS student’s physical strength and pace was noticed on the rugby pitch this season, and sprinting tests and trials with Sliding Sports Australia followed last month before Werner received confirmation she’d made the boblseigh team.
“I have a chance to achieve a 20-year dream of mine and put on that green and gold tracksuit,” Werner said.
“My mum was already feeling a bit nervous about me playing rugby, so when I told her about bobsleigh she was like, ‘oh my, now this’ – it’s so exciting.”
Werner will join her new teammates Bree Walker, Mikayla Dunn and Molly Gray on a four-month training camp in the US and Canada beginning in late November, where they will practice on a championship bobsleigh course for the first time, build combinations and begin competing in Olympic Games qualifying races.
“We’ll be put straight into the deep end, but I think that’s the best way to learn,” Werner said.
“There’s a lot of sprinting, plyometrics training for those explosive starts and also a lot of weights sessions, because we are pushing a sled that weights four times what we do.
“I would love to be a pilot because I like the idea of being in control and responding to stimulus along the track.”
Werner said what has struck her most about her new sport is “how helpful people are”.
“The Aussie boys (men’s team] have been so lovely, just talking us through things, and the international [bobsleigh] community is really keen to help us out.
“The only real problem or challenge for us is funding.
“Because it’s a self-funded sport in Australia and we live on the other side of the winter sports universe, that makes everything that much harder for us.
“As a full-time university student with two part-time jobs, I just cannot afford to foot all of the costs myself.”
To that end, Werner has started a fundraising campaign for the upcoming overseas training camp on the Ozcrowd website.
“Thank you in advance for any support you can give,” Werner said.
To make a donation, visit https://ozcrowd.com/campaign/3261.