Think Piece – Getting lost on the roads
Source: Caitlin Ward, published 13 July, 2017
I am a Track Cyclist who grew up on the Mornington Peninsular in Victoria. I have always been heavily involved in my local school and cycling community. In 2010 at the age of 16, with a passion for cycling, I set myself a goal to reach the Rio Olympic Games.
I was on track and ready to go when my dream was taken away from me in an instant when I suffered two serious injuries. I was completely devastated and broken by my injuries. I had put my whole life into cycling, sacrificed everything and it was taken from me. Something I absolutely loved came crashing down on me – where I thought my life was going, changed in a split second.
Being mentally and physically pushed to my limits, I know what it’s like to lose something that you have been working hard towards.
However it wasn’t until 2015, when I made the move and chose to call South Australia home that I had some great opportunities off of the bike – the biggest being an ambassador and mentor with The Road Home Wellbeing Program through The Repat Foundation.
To be successful, athletes need to have a high level of commitment and drive to achieve their goals – they must make many sacrifices. The incredible veterans that I have worked with over the last year have sacrificed so much more – they somehow even find great pleasure in the ‘sacrifices’ that are needed to become an athlete as they turn their focus to the Invictus Games.
There are a lot of things in the veteran world and the world of an athlete that are very similar that everyone can learn from. I believe we can help each other and draw from our personal experiences, though different, have the same themes like sacrifice, dedication and being mentally and physically challenged.
I take great pride in my role as an ambassador and mentor with The Road Home Program for the team who are striving to achieve great results in the upcoming Invictus games. A chance meeting at the Repat Foundation’s Anzac Cocktail evening set me on a path to be involved in a pilot mentoring program with a group of 5 veterans, and now as an ambassador for The Road Home.
I feel very fortunate that I have been given this opportunity. At a time when I was enduring the toughest injuries on the bike, I have drawn so much inspiration and strength from the service men and women I have worked with – their ‘never give in’ attitude and courage is truly inspiring.
My late grandfather and great uncle served in WWII but they spoke very little of their experiences. Honouring and commemorating our Anzacs is very dear to me, and has stemmed from the great respect I learnt at school and was even further enforced once I realised I had a rich family heritage in WWII. I never knew much of my family’s involvement, but after working with veterans and gaining a greater understand of their hidden struggles, it has inspired me to help.
I focus my energy in being a positive ear in the mentoring program, and encourage everyone to get out on the bike because I know the benefits of getting lost on the roads can have. When I’ve had a tough time, there is nothing better than a few laughs out on a group ride – it’s a cleansing feeling.
I feel incredibly honoured to work with the veteran community and have the opportunity to commemorate the sacrifice our Anzacs made. The Anzac Centenary means many different things to different people. Not only is it a significant part of Australian history, it is respected across our communities and has shaped who we are as Australians.
I receive great inspiration from the grit and determination of all the veterans and service men and women I have met, a whole community of people who have represented Australia in a totally unique way.
It is incredibly special that these veterans have the ability to strive for the Invictus Games and I am thrilled to work alongside each and every one of them, as they look towards the 2018 Invictus games.
Catilin Ward is a 23 year old Victorian track sprint cyclist who relocated to Adelaide in 2015 to be a part of Cycling Australia’s High Performance AIS program. Caitlin has held a junior Australian track record, won a silver and bronze medal at the Junior World Titles, and was a 2014 Commonwealth Games long term squad member. Caitlin won 5th place in the Keirin at the 2015 World Cup and is the 2016 Australian Champion in elites for the 500m time trial. Off the bike, Caitlin is studying a Bachelor of Exercise Science and Level 1 Cycling Coach. Caitlin is a SA Invictus Games state team mentor and ambassador for the Road Home Wellbeing Program. After an unfortunate string of injuries over the last 2 years, Caitlin is hoping to get back onto the Australian team for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Caption: (L to R) The Road Home Ambassadors, Stephanie Morton OAM, Caitlin Ward, and Stuart O'Grady with Veteran Peter Krause.