Craigs Investment Partners, November 2021

Olympic medalist Ellesse Andrews is on a fast track after years of spinning towards the podium. The cyclist won silver at the 2020 Tokyo Games in August in the women’s keirin sprint event. She is the first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic track cycling medal since 2004.

Ellesse was pedalling around Christchurch recently when Craigs Investment Partners caught up with her. She told us she has dreamed of standing on the Olympic podium for years but never would have guessed she’d hit the mark this year. “I was going into the games with the mindset that I was putting everything out there, doing my best, and striving towards the final and a podium place.

But getting the result and making it a reality was the most unexpected event. I’m amazed at the outcome I was able to create for myself.

Tactically, Ellesse was pleased with how she handled the keirin, a race where a pacer on an electric motorbike brings a pack of cyclists up to speed. “I was a bit asleep in the first race and didn’t do well,” says Ellesse. “You have to treat every race like it’s the final and not get caught out. I learned that quickly after the first ride. Being able to look at the competition from a wider perspective is crucial.”

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The 21-year-old says the Tokyo games were different from any held before. Unlike past Olympics, cyclists in Tokyo stayed in a satellite village far from the track. “It changes a lot of the atmosphere,” says Ellesse. “When you’re in the main accommodation surrounded by a million different athletes, it’s great, but it could potentially be a distraction. It was fantastic to be part of something so unique while gaining a great result alongside the team.”

Craigs has sponsored Ellesse’s cycling career since she was 17 years old. Back then, she had won two medals in the 2016 team sprint and individual pursuit and was working towards the 2017 Junior World Championships. She won gold and silver at those games. “The sponsorship has been ticking along the past four years and it’s so special to have their support,” says Ellesse. “Craigs has watched me grow and progress as an athlete.”

Ellesse is gearing up for another speedy season, with the Commonwealth Games and World Championships on the horizon in the next 12 months. She would also like to spend more time studying (she’s working towards a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in public relations at Waikato University). She loves singing and playing the guitar in her spare time. For now, she’s recharging with family in Christchurch before returning to train in Cambridge.

While Ellesse has a cycling pedigree - her father is a medal-winning sprinter and her mother is an accomplished mountain biker - qualities beyond athletic ability make her favourite people shine. “My mum is a musician and she is writing heaps of music for a paper, so watching her go through that process is inspiring to me.” Ellesse also admires Kiwi sporting legends Lisa Carrington (rowing); Valerie Adams (track and field); and Sarah Ulmer (cycling), among others. “This year at the games I was the only female sprinter on my team. It required a lot of growth from me.”

Ellesse previously cycled with the women’s endurance programme, but switched to sprinting in 2019. Her advice for women and girls seeking excellence in their sport is to do what you love. “If you have that foundation, you’ll be able to push harder and put yourself in situations where you are stronger as an athlete and as a woman because you want to be there. You’re not going to win a medal in every competition. You have to be proud of your journey and of the effort you put into your training.”