• Elana Withnall

That one Time... I was on the shadow Winter Olympic Team

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Unexpected Life Journeys.


My Bobsleigh Campaign.

If anyone told me one month ago. I would be on the other side of the world.

Learning an extreme sport; to potentially compete at the Winter Olympics. I'd say - get real?

Well... Here I am.

After experiencing one the most whirlwind, overwhelming, incredible, enriching life journeys. I have spent a month, in Canada, on the Australian Winter Olympic Team, learning to drive a Bobsled.


Now, this will be my seventeenth consecutive track and field season. I started competing when I was seven. And my love only grows for the sport.

Growing up I danced for sixteen years, played netball, soccer and beach volley ball.

But I thought, track and field would always be the one. That definitive moment in my career - watching Cathy Freeman win the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Mini Lani knew: that's what I want to do with my life. And we haven't given up on that dream. We have just a new, ''potential addition.''

Bobsleigh compliments Track.

Track compliments Bobsleigh. It's all about:

Speed. Power. Drive. Ultimately: Making it to the finish line in the fastest way possible.

When Jana Pittman;

(Triple 400m Hurdles World Champion. First Australian Female to compete at both a Summer and Winter Olympic Games)

My pseudo sister, training partner and idol asked me: would you ever try Bobsleigh and be my pilot for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games? WOW!

Try telling that to twelve year old Lani, who was over joyed - (and definitely fangirling) over meeting Jana for the first time.


Fast forward ten years and:

1) Jana will be your training partner

2) You'll become besties

3) You could partner in a WINTER OLYMPICS together?

She'd be dreaming! How crazy is that, right? I a big believer in trusting that things always work out the way their supposed to. The way God planned.



And, I am so. eternally. grateful. 1) To be in this amazing, crazy, position 2) For all the people who have never stopped believing in me 3) For the way things come together, the way life is never expected, the way you are always where you're supposed to be.

And after a week, in this foreign icy land. I have fallen in love with this new, extreme, unforgiving, addictive sport.

Bobsleigh: Basically driving a sled, down an icy mountain. At speeds of 120km/h + ! If you blink, you could miss a turn. The G-force going around corners, shifts your body as you are thrown side-to-side of this sled. No seat belt. Just a helmet and you.


I've unconsciously said myself a little prayer; each time before sliding down that mountain that I make it to the bottom; alive.




I quote myself after my first slide. An experience like no other: ''It felt like I was going to die. But I didn't.'' Because you are going that fast. That slick. It's all over in just above sixty seconds. And when you make it to the end. It feels like a roller coaster on steroids. And all you want to do it learn how to go faster.




However, Crashing on ice is a scary scary thing. This is where I had my first Near Death Experience...

One minute you're gliding down the ice, like a dream. Then next, you take a corner too sharp, the G-force has pulled you in and your head is bashed against the icy corner.

Then back again on your bobsled.


Now you're upside down. You have to duck inside so you don't decapitate yourself) - until / IF you flip back over again.


You pray.

Pray to God that you will get safety to that line. Pray to God that he will keep you in one piece.

Pray to God this is not how it ends...

Then miraculously, without any control, without any hands on the steering wheel

You flip yourself back upright.

Quickly collecting yourself, your emotion, your adrenaline to safety steer down the last 3 corners to the finish line.

Fortunately for me I came out, rattled, battered; but unscathed. But In one piece.

Overcome with emotion; I thanked the Lord I made it.

I call that a ''God Moment....''


And as I sat there in disbelief. That I made it. That I was in one piece.

Concussed, sore and sorry and off to Emergency for checking over...


It took a while to come down from that high.

Not a normal high. A high missed with fear and disbelief.





But after it all. After the medical checks and the protocols. I realized I don't think that's what God wants me to do with my life.


An Olympic Dream will make you do crazy things. But while sport is such a massive part f my life. It's not my whole life.


Perspective.

What would my family think; every time I got to the top of the mountain and not knowing if I'd make it down again...

All for a glory I may never be fast enough to achieve.


There's a lot of ''what ifs....'' at play. And the ''buts'' seemed to outweigh the greater cost at stake.

A crazy sport when you think about it. The goal: to make it down the mountain as quick as possible. The risk - limitless. But the feeling - priceless.



I don't know where the next journey is going to take me,

It's funny how life works out. Trust in the beauty of new beginnings.

New opportunities. New passions.

But you owe it to yourself to take the chance!


I encourage you (within safely reasons of course)

To lead your life with more ''WOWs'' that ''What ifs...'' You never know where it may lead you..


Until next time...

Keep Dreaming & Believing,

Xx Lani

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