Brazil. Rio de Janeiro. 2016 Olympic Games. It has been all about the Olympic Games for me. After missing out on getting into medicine at University in July, 2010, I desperately wanted to make the Olympic Games. Two years later, I made it to London. I raced hard and came away with a bronze medal. This was great, but it left me wanting more. I therefore set my sights on the following cycle, which was to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. It was a long way off, but I chipped away, focussing on each Track World Championships and European road season, year after year.
All of a sudden, Rio started to loom. The idea that I could finally travel to Brazil started to become a reality. Cycling has led me down different paths all over the globe, racing in the Australian colours on the track, or in my trade team colours (now Wiggle-High5) on the road. I’ve visited South America a few times before, travelling to both Colombia and Mexico, but I’ve never made it to Brazil.
The reason why Brazil has been so high on my travel-priority-list is because ever since my 14th birthday my family and I have been sponsoring a child (now teenager) from the Cajazeiras region in the North of Brazil. I was fortunate enough to have some great teachers and friends who opened my eyes up to some of the problems and poverty facing the world, sparking my interest in World Vision. I volunteered with World Vision and Make Poverty history throughout my early high school years. But unfortunately that side of things has slipped into the background as sport took my focus, but I am still in regular contact with my 18-year-old Brazilian sister, Vanessa.
Naturally, I started wondering whether I could make two dreams become a reality, i.e., win Olympic gold, then finally MEET my sponsor sister (after all, I have always been a dreamer!) But why together? Why not wait till after the hype of the Games has died down? Since I was thirteen, my favourite quote has been, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’, by Mahatma Gandhi. Eleven years have passed, but I haven’t felt that I have done enough to even make a dent in that quote. Elite sport is a very selfish thing. To be a top athlete, you must think about how to get the most out of yourself. This has meant I haven’t had enough time to do much for other people, or as much as I have wished. By using the profile of the Olympic Games, and the strange coincidence that I had a Brazilian sponsor child, this was the perfect opportunity to expose the brilliant work that is constantly being done by World Vision to a different audience, and hopefully in turn, inspire others to also get involved and make a positive difference to someone else’s life.
I am very blessed that World Vision and Channel 7 also saw my vision and have worked tirelessly to make this trip happen, getting the “OK” from the Australian Olympic Committee for my temporary departure from the Olympic Village post competition.
I have not come from an overly-wealthy family, but we have everything we need. I am so blessed to have supportive parents, who have always encouraged me to achieve my dreams. They have given and taught my two brothers, Chris, Alex and I absolutely everything we need to set us up for a happy and healthy future. This is why it’s been so rewarding sponsoring Vanessa all of these years. To be able to share what we are lucky enough to have, to help improve the quality of life of another individual and her family has been so rewarding. To know that we have played a role in assisting her to achieve her dreams and aspirations, just like my parents helped my brothers and I, is so special. Aside from meeting Vanessa and her family, I’m also looking forward to seeing the improvements in the community. I’ve only heard positive news from the constant progress reports from World Vision representatives. It’s nice to know that our sponsorship also goes towards helping the community progress and become self-supporting.
I’m so excited to meet her. I feel like we are quite similar, she grew up with two brothers, playing soccer everyday. She now loves to study and wants to be a paediatrician….! I wonder if she’ll take up cycling next?!
It all seems to be underway..! Now all I have to do is take care of the first part of the plan, so I can take a shiny gold souvenir (or two!) to show off to Vanessa and her village! 😉
Wish me luck!