Caroline Buchanan. Gracie Elvin. Bec Henderson.
Three Olympians. Three cyclists. Three Canberrans. Three very different athletes.
I had the opportunity to interview these three ladies for SBS Zela, a website dedicated to women in sport. With free reign on the shape of each article, I started with a list of questions: things I was curious about, mediated by things I think the Zela audience might be curious about.
What would you ask these women?
Links to the published articles are below. I hope you enjoy reading them. And, given the articulate insights each rider shared, I hope more journalists write these types of personality pieces on Australian female athletes more often.
Rio bound: Caroline Buchanan on soaring forward and giving back
When other athletes were writing rambling blogs, or moaning about how difficult it was to get funding, she was using Facebook to share race reports via a series of artistic, digital postcards. When Twitter and Instagram became things, @cbuchanan68 was already ahead of the game. In response to the reach of video, she started her own YouTube channel: Buchanan On Air.
A brand as much as an athlete, the energy and drive she takes to each start gate is what pushes Buchanan to be ahead of the social media game. Doing so has provided a sense of financial security in a sport that is known more for its debilitating crashes than lucrative contracts, especially for women. It has opened pathways that, once again, extend beyond the boundaries of a race track, her predecessors, and convention.
Olympian Gracie Elvin gives us a crash course in cycling. Excuse the pun.
(Also excuse the header – that one came from our editor! I’m a little superstitious when it comes to things like this but was thrilled to see Gracie keep it upright and set the race alight with tenacity and strength.)
What advice would you give to people who have a passion for sport but don’t have that kind of support from their families or their peers?
I’ve seen so many people, and mostly women, not succeed or even try sport for fear of failure. Failure doesn’t mean not winning in this instance, it means not being accepted or valued.
Finding the right coach and/or mentor is the most important thing you can do. You need someone who is 100 per cent in your corner and cheering you on.
The second most important factor is finding your community. This could be a team or a club, or, like me, a group of women who embrace sport alongside careers, children, mascara and coffee dates!
Lastly, the beauty of social media means you can contact your favourite athletes who are more than happy to provide advice if you reach out.
Bec Henderson talks about Olympics number two
Have there been any key turning points in your development as a rider to reach this level, or has it been more a case of steady progression with the right support at the right time?
I have had a pretty steady progression in the sport. The backbone to my progress has been the support of my family and of course Dan. We have spent years travelling in Europe on our own with bare minimum equipment, sometimes barely working bikes, supporting each other through the races while trying to perform at our best.
I would never change those early years, but joining Trek Factory Racing, which was a massive step in our careers, has allowed us to race with the best support so we can focus on our racing and training. Our equipment always works and we always have a place to sleep; two luxuries we didn’t always have on our own.
Header image: Adam McGrath