By Mikayla van Loon
She’s captured the hearts of not only her local community in Mount Evelyn but the rest of Australia with her ‘go-get-em’ attitude and positive outlook.
Bobsleigh pilot Bree Walker had an impressive first Winter Olympic Games in Beijing making Australian history by placing fifth in the debut of the women’s monobob event.
Bree’s monobob campaign started on Sunday 13 February in freezing and snowing conditions, different to what she had experienced in the week of training leading up to the first heat.
“The track was colder today, with harder ice but I don’t think it affected our results. I need to focus on what I need to do in my process,” she told the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) after the first day of heats.
Battling the Yanqing National Sliding Centre track, shaped like a dragon, Bree was confident she could improve on her first two runs the following day.
Moving up from seventh to fifth with two stellar runs, she finished heat three with a time of 3:16.25 which had her in the top spot but Bree was unable to hold onto it, with some of the best pilots still to run.
She came fifth, finishing 2.28 seconds behind the leader Kaillee Humphries who took out the gold medal.
It was the highest bobsleigh finish Australia has ever received at an Olympic Games.
But her efforts weren’t done, jumping into the two-woman bobsleigh with Kiara Reddingius.
Day one of the two-woman heats saw the pair take charge early with a time of 1:01.98 in their first run to sit fifteenth overall.
With slower ice for the second run, the girls were still able to score a time of 1:02.11, the eleventh quickest time of heat two which moved them up to twelth position overall and just 0.06 outside of the top 10.
“I’m really happy with today, it’s only our sixth time pushing together on this track,” Bree told the AOC.
Competing against some of the best in the world, Bree and Kiara were able to hold steady in run number three with a time of 1:02.04 to jump into eleventh position.
But with Germany dominating the circuit, the duo had a difficult fourth run and saw them finish with a time of 1:02.51 giving them a sixteenth place finish with a combined time of 4.08.64.
“I don’t have words for how I’m feeling yet, I’m still comprehending what has happened,” Bree said afterwards.
“It’s been a huge campaign but I’m so grateful for our team, we’ve worked so hard.
“I really wanted to fix up a few mistakes I had been making all week and I think that last run I wanted it too bad.”
The lead up to Bree’s Olympic campaign was challenged by Covid-19 but it still saw her take home eight podium finishes in the monobob world series over the last two seasons.
Based in Germany and competing where she could, she said during that time she tried her best to stay as safe as possible with the virus going around, which did become quite isolating.
“You do have so many restrictions with training facilities and what you can do just in general. So my life has been quite isolated to being just an athlete,” she said.
“As an athlete you have to be very adaptable, especially in these times it’s shown me how adaptable I am as an athlete because from one minute you can be going down very nice and smooth then all of a sudden a positive Covid test pops up and everyone has to scramble to be as safe as possible.”
Unable to see friends or spend too long at the shops, Bree was focussed on her Olympic dream.
But with travel restrictions in place during most of her preparation, Bree said her team was only able to train for the first time on the Yanqing track for three weeks in October.
“This was the first time that any athlete outside of the Chinese team got a chance to be on this track and so these Olympics, it’s anybody’s game,” she said prior to heading to Beijing.
“I think we have done a really good job of preparing ourselves. I’ve had quite a successful year in the monobob and that’s provided me with a lot of confidence leading into these Olympics and I’m just going to go there and execute the best runs as possible.”
Bree was able to finish up her Olympic experience knowing she had done the best she could, with room to improve for her next Olympics.
“Kiara, my new teammate who I teamed up with probably in the middle of this season, she’s a fantastic talent and the more we push together the better we get.
“I’m just excited to represent Australia at the Olympics. It’s been a dream of mine for many, many years and so I’m excited to put on the green and gold and stand on top of the hill and say to myself ‘you did it, you achieved your dream’ and really take in that moment.”
Bree’s next goal is to head home to Mount Evelyn for a bit to see her family and friends after such a long time away, to catch up on all the life changing events like marriages and babies that she missed.
“I’m so excited to see my family and friends and I’m so excited to just drink a lot of Melbourne coffee. I miss it so much.
“I was such a local in Lilydale and I’ve missed going out for coffee with friends, so I’m very excited to do that and just catch up with everybody.”