Love it, do it, stay true

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Wanaka paddleboarder Annabel Anderson was named supreme winner at the Central Otago Sports Awards in Wanaka recently. At present in Southern California, she took time to answer five questions about her life and career.

What makes a good athlete?

You’ve got to love doing the work. You’ve got to love the process, love the challenges that are thrown your way and you’ve got to be committed.

There are likely more darker moments than there are bright ones, and while it’s only the bright ones that get the light shining on them to celebrate success in the eye of others, it’s the resilience and mental fortitude of overcoming challenge and adversity that makes those bright moments all the more sweeter when they occur.

How has coming from Wanaka shaped your life?

There’s something about the size and scale of the hills, the strength of the wind, the heat of the sun, the cold of winter, the clarity of the waters and the harshness of the weather that has taught me to adapt to my environment.

Back in the day, it truly felt we were the poor cousins of our friends over the hill.

We were the ragamuffins who didn’t have flash gear, but we battled away and loved to get one over our neighbours.

It was a smell-of-an-oily-rag programme when it came to most things and while that has definitely changed in the years of late, that willingness to make do with what you’ve got, to improvise, to overcome and to simply do things for the love of getting out and doing has definitely shaped me as a person.

You’ve had setbacks, including injuries. How do you push through the hard stuff?

It’s fair to say that this is something that most athletes face and it’s part and parcel of sport.

Over time and with experience you learn what you can and can’t push through.

Following some horror injuries in my late teens and early 20s, it was as though life was putting me through the washing machine on the agitation cycle on repeat.

What it did was help to build resilience and mental fortitude that I’ve pulled on greatly in the years since.

Now when things get hard and there’s some major roadblocks, I’ll look at them as an opportunity to learn from it, to think a little harder, to be better for it and to, hopefully, have a good story to tell on the other side.

What would you say to a young athlete starting out?

You’ve got to love it and you’ve got to do it for you, only you and no-one else and if you really want it, you’ll find a way of doing it – conventionally, or unconventionally, as has been my case.

Learn to love the work, look after your body and always stay true to the reason of why you love to do your sport.

Sport has the potential to offer you the most incredible opportunities to become a better human and to experience amazing things.

Dream big, but take things day by day and break everything down into minuscule steps.

QWhat is your next challenge?

Right now my biggest challenge is getting over a bad concussion from hitting my head in a random accident back in January and it has forced me change my usual approach to the year, to learn to say no, to slow down, to listen to my body and to take things day by day.

Recently I ponied up and rode the Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego, USA, a major mixed-surface cycling race taking in 227km of road, gravel, dirt and single track with 4000m of climbing on road bikes.

I had no intention of doing it, but when the opportunity arose I saw it as an opportunity to get back on the horse and see where things were at.

Four punctures could have ruined my day and while they kept me off the podium, they were symbolic of overcoming the challenges that have been thrown my way of late.

Taking on a race of this size with no real preparation of late is somewhat nuts, but it gave me the small hint I needed that things are turning the corner and I can start to look to what the next challenges might be.