Anna Meares was fearless within the velodrome, scrutinised by hundreds of individuals and underneath strain to tug off a gold-medal experience.
However in a small Adelaide artwork studio, surrounded by eight different rookies and gazing a clean canvas?
“I could not begin it,” Meares mentioned.
“The trainer came visiting and requested if I used to be okay, and I simply handed her the paintbrush and mentioned, ‘Are you able to simply make the primary mark, simply get me began?’
“She wobbled one thing on the canvas … and I am like, ‘Nice, now I can work with that’.”
Pushing the consolation zone
After many years of strict coaching routines, meal plans and dealing with coaches, Meares was frozen by the limitless prospects.
The rookies’ portray class got here a couple of months after her retirement from elite-level biking in 2016.
It was an opportunity to revisit a interest that had rivalled Meares’s love of sport when she was a young person, rising up in Rockhampton in central Queensland.
Meares has since returned to elite sport as a part of the management staff on the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Video games and will be Australia’s chef de mission for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
However that first-class was a turning level in Meares’s private life post-sport, the catalyst for brand spanking new friendships and renewed self-confidence.
“It was onerous to begin one thing new as a result of I had expectations – and believed that everybody else had expectations – that I used to be going to do something once more on the identical degree I had accomplished in sport,” she mentioned.
“It is studying abilities from the bottom degree, it is having conversations and asking for assist, it is having a go making errors as a way to truly study and progress your self additional ahead.
“We are inclined to fall into habits of consolation … and the worry of being uncomfortable can typically cease us from even attempting one thing new.
“I believe it is very nice in protected methods, and artistic methods, to push the boundaries once more.”
Imperfections give items character
Just a few months later Meares determined to attempt pottery with pal and neighbour Carol Coffey.
“The very first thing they mentioned is, ‘Look, we’re having no Ghost moments on this class’,” Meares mentioned.
“My first [piece] was a bit wonky and I had a couple of that simply fell over.
“The primary one which I did make actually fell aside [when I was] attempting to get it off [the wheel].”
Regardless of these first hiccups, Meares completed the rookies’ course with 4 or 5 items she nonetheless makes use of now.
“The onerous half is if you undergo sport, and also you get to a extremely high-performance degree like I did, the place every little thing was clicking after 22 years, to then go and begin a very new set of abilities and hobbies from scratch, was actually irritating and endurance isn’t my finest advantage,” Meares mentioned.
“So, it taught me extra endurance and mindfulness.
“It is simply the power to show my head off to actually get right into a inventive house to simply sit, be current, and give attention to attempting to make one thing.”
The shed in Meares’s yard quickly grew to become an artwork studio.
“In the long run, I preferred [pottery] a lot that I bought my sauna – which I had as an athlete – to purchase myself my very own wheel,” Meares mentioned.
She and Carol shortly established a weekly pottery night time, giving them each a break from the night parenting routine and letting them hone their abilities.
“I simply really feel pleased with myself that I used to be capable of do it and capable of make it,” Meares mentioned.
“I can get inventive for my household and the extra that I do this, the extra confidence I get.
“And funnily sufficient, folks aren’t after good items, they’re after wonky items as a result of they’ve character.
“I believe that is truly fairly highly effective for not simply what we’ve got in our lives, however who we’ve got in our lives: we do not search for perfection, we search for character.”
Discovering a brand new pottery group
Meares and her household moved to New Zealand earlier this yr, however the brand new journey got here with a caveat – the at-home pottery studio needed to be re-created.
Pottery can be proving to be an effective way to make new mates, with Meares’s neighbours keen to present the wheel a go.
“I believe mine could be a ‘come and take a look at’ shed,” she joked.
“Like our pottery nights again in Adelaide I’ll have a purple wine or white wine, and water bubbles, for folks to simply chill out and have some nibbles as effectively.
“, typically if you make new mates it is onerous to have a brand new dialog since you simply do not know them.
“It’d sound foolish, however typically it simply takes one factor to get a foot within the door after which , an awesome friendship can blossom from there.”