At the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018, Bree Walker watched from the gang as American bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor raced at excessive speeds down an icy run to safe a silver medal.
Meyers Taylor, a former rugby and softball participant, is a vastly aggressive athlete. She wasn’t racing Walker on the time, however had some passing feedback for the Australian, a former hurdler nonetheless contemplating her future in winter sports activities.
With just a few phrases, Meyers Taylor made a prediction that might quickly be realised on the Beijing Winter Olympics.
After years of onerous work, Walker has now made her idol her rival. And the 29-year-old’s unbelievable journey got here by way of far north Queensland, a spot the place it should by no means snow.
“I went to the PyeongChang Olympics as a spectator and it was her with her silver medal and I think she just said to me, ‘you’ll get one of these one day yourself’,” Walker tells Brisbane Times.
“Recently [outside of the Olympics], I’ve won silver, and she’s won gold in the last two races in Winterberg and for me, that’s crazy because I was nowhere near her at PyeongChang.
“But her saying that to me gave me such drive to be up there with her and competing with her and pushing as fast as her and that’s what I’m doing.”
Walker is now second on this planet for monobob, the one-woman model of bobsledding which is able to for the primary time make an look on the Winter Olympics subsequent month. Ahead of her is Meyers Taylor, and in Beijing the inaugural medallists will probably be determined.
“She’s been a real role model for me. For her to say something like that to somebody who was nowhere near her level, it was really quite lovely,” Walker says from St Moritz, Switzerland, the place she is getting ready for the video games.
Walker, initially from Melbourne’s Yarra Valley, however primarily based in Cairns as a member of the Queensland Academy of Sport, has travelled throughout the globe for the two-women bobsledding competitions.
But it was within the monobob that she excelled, with victory in Winterberg, Germany, and double gold in La Plagne, France within the 2019-20 season.
The following season she took residence three medals within the monobob, and completed in second place behind Meyers Taylor on the world rankings.
But it was successful a second World Cup medal that modified Walker.
“I knew I could do that, but I think a lot of people thought because there weren’t many teams there because of COVID and ‘you’re quite experienced in monobob, that’s why you were able to achieve that’, but then when I won it a second time that for me solidified to me, like, ‘no, I’m here to be a competitor’.”
Monobob has allowed extra international locations to take part, Walker says, with standardised gear which means the main target is barely on athletes and never decided by which nation can afford higher gear.
“Monobob was actually used originally as a training tool for pilots to learn how to drive so when it was introduced a lot of pilots thought it was kind of a step backwards in the sport but I think it’s been a big step forward for the women’s field,” she says.
But bobsleigh nonetheless isn’t a highly regarded sport in Australia, Walker says, and when she first appeared for a crew there wasn’t even one to affix.
“When I won it a second time that for me solidified to me, like, ‘no, I’m here to be a competitor’.”
“I think the financial side has been my biggest challenge,” Walker says. “There’s not a lot of funding that goes into our programs. So, I’ve had to create a program myself and find the funding I need in order to compete at the highest level.
“It’s just making connections and finding sponsors and that can be really, really stressful.
“But I think I’ve done a pretty good job at assembling the team and the sponsors in order to be able to compete and be competitive at the highest level.
“It’s been a long road but I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve.”
Just after Christmas, Walker competed in Sigulda, Latvia, the place she gained one other silver medal within the monobob, earlier than crashing on the course within the two-woman occasion.
“That was really heartbreaking because I knew that probably laid down an unbelievable result there,” she says.
“But that’s just the way of the sport, that’s what happens and, unfortunately, I’m not that experienced on that track. It was just lack of experience.”
Walker has spent the previous two years travelling regardless of the COVID pandemic, coaching, testing new tracks and honing her expertise.
Due to COVID, athletes now keep in residences reasonably than lodges to keep away from the virus.
Walker hasn’t been residence to Cairns since September 2019.
“It’s very isolating. Usually [in hotels] that’s where you socialise with the new competitors outside of sliding but we haven’t been able to do that a lot this year which is sad, but I guess it’s the way of the times really,” Walker says.
In her spare to time to fight emotions of homesickness – she misses espresso dates with associates, and time along with her household – Walker likes to weblog. But her responsible pleasure? Skincare.
“Everyone’s like, what are your hobbies? But I don’t know, I enjoy skincare,” she laughs. “I buy way too much skincare and just looking up YouTube videos of new skincare products and then trying them out.
“I had a lot of trouble with my skin especially wearing the masks all the time and then the cold temperature.”
“I love going out to coffee and adventuring to new places and new cities. Travelling is obviously a big hobby of mine too, but COVID has restricted a lot of what I enjoy outside the sport so it’s mainly just been the sport for the last two years.”
Walker began the season in China in October, the place the athletes first went by the Olympic monitor in Beijing to follow.
It was the primary time any bobsleigh athletes aside from the Chinese crew had seen the monitor.
“It was absolutely amazing. The architecture there is world-class, the facilities are unbelievable,” Walker says.
“The track was very interesting – it was nothing like we’ve ever slid in Europe before, so the learning curve was very tough, but I think we made really good progress over the three weeks we were there.
“We returned home and went straight into sliding in the World Cup…where I won my first bronze medal in the monobob.”
Walker is now targeted on Beijing in February.
Next week, she’ll go to a holding camp the place athletes will isolate additional to keep away from COVID-19, earlier than heading to the Olympics.
“I’m just going in there and wanting to produce my best performances, I’m not putting any expectations on it. All I’m going to do is do my job the best I can, and if that comes out with a medal and a winning result, then that’ll be the cherry on top,” she says.
“It’s just been such an unpredictable season and China is going to be so unpredictable as well because we haven’t had a lot of experience there on that track.
“So I’ve just gotta go in there do the best I can and have fun.”