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Steering through uncharted territory: lessons from a ride of purpose and endurance

IbyIMD+17 August 2023 • by Heather Cairns-Lee in MagazinePodcast availablePodcast available

Olympian Rebecca Wardell tells Heather Cairns-Lee how a 20,000 km bike ride from Lausanne to New Zealand taught her the importance of managing her mindset, resilience, teamwork, and the kindness of strangers...

Olympian Rebecca Wardell tells Heather Cairns-Lee how a 20,000 km bike ride from Lausanne to New Zealand taught her the importance of managing her mindset, resilience, teamwork, and the kindness of strangers.

In 2018, Rebecca Wardell, a heptathlete who competed in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, set herself the challenge of cycling from Lausanne to her home country of New Zealand. The epic journey – including elevations the equivalent of climbing Everest 11 times – took her through 19 countries in almost a year. 

She experienced countless highs and lows, both physically and mentally – battling severe headwinds, snow, ice, and torrential rain as well as suffering the discomfort of sleeping in highway drains and on restaurant floors. In Iran, she crashed and split open her knee. She also saw stunning natural beauty in remote parts of the world and was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. 

In this interview, Wardell explains why she decided to undertake the journey, what it taught her about resilience and perseverance, and how she uses these lessons in her work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

Focus on the purpose 

Growing up on a sheep farm in the South…

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