“Sometimes the hardest battle is getting the confidence to walk back into the big wide world” – Anna Meares
Anna Meares OAM is an Australian retired track cyclist. She is a 4-time Olympian, 2-time Olympic champion with 6 Olympic medals, 11-time world champion across four different disciplines and a 5-time Commonwealth Games Champion. She retired from cycling in 2016 after 22 years, with six Olympic medals under her belt. She won one of those medals at the Beijing Olympics, just seven months after a velodrome crash in Los Angeles, which resulted in a fractured neck for Anna, 2 millimetres short of a clean break.
Anna learnt very early in her life that the mind is an important tool. Ignore it and you are ignoring your chance to be the best version of yourself, to equip yourself with the skills that can help and cope/survive some of life challenges. “What I have learnt is that becoming strong of the mind takes time, a measurement that is different for everyone and, it takes many occasions to break, or to fall, or to lose, or to be facing a brick wall before you realise your full capacity, that you have to be in a vulnerable place in order to force yourself to ask for help”, Anna said.
Anna has been open about the struggles she experienced mentally and emotionally throughout her sporting career and in retirement from professional cycling, transition to life outside of sport and the personal battles that faced her in those times. In her book, titled ‘Now’, Anna discusses her grief and anxiety, how she processed and dealt with it, and the support she needed to get through it.
“Mental health is as important to face and accept help just as we seek support and help in the physical sphere of life as an elite Athlete”, Anna said.
Her success on the track is not the only thing that drives Anna. She has chosen to be a strong contributor to her community. Anna heard about Integra Service Dogs Australia while supporting veterans at the Invictus Games 2018 held in Australia. As an Integra Service Dogs Australia Ambassador Anna provides insight into what it is like to experience a mental health condition and gives hope and encouragement to others.