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Olympic cyclist meets Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs

20 March 2018

AOC: Cyclist Katrin Garfoot is an Olympian, World Championships medallist, three-time national champion, and could be the future of Australian politics.

10 years ago, Garfoot was a high school teacher who had only ever ridden a bike as a convenient mode of transport. Now she’s one of Australia’s most accomplished female cyclists and having meetings with the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The 36-year-old is one of 10 athletes involved in the Australian Olympic Committee’s new mentor program where Olympic athletes are linked with fellow Olympians or Australian business professionals who are now experts in their field, to coach them through the next stage of their life.

Garfoot joined the pilot program in November 2017 and was partnered with lawyer, former Federal Government Chief of Staff and Queensland Olympic Council Executive Board Member, John Lamont.

With Garfoot considering a political career after sport, Lamont helped organise the meeting with the Honorable Julie Bishop MP in Canberra, which Garfoot said she was “very grateful for.”

“It was such a great honor to meet Julie Bishop,” Garfoot said. “The Minister was very direct and focused. She wanted to know about me – how my training was going and about my plans for the future. We had a great two-way conversation.

“She has valuable insights into the workings of a professional career in politics, should I choose this direction. I also would like to get in contact with the Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie as it would be an honour to learn from such exceptional female leaders.

“It was obvious that the Minister was very busy and had back to back meetings following one after the other, but still she made time to meet and speak with me, and on her agreement, I plan to keep in touch.”

With a wealth of political and legal experience himself, Lamont was very impressed with the meeting.

“For me, it was quite humbling to be in the room with two incredible Australian women – one an elite international cyclist, the other Australia’s most senior diplomat,” Lamont said.

“A pivotal observation I would make from the meeting was the shared characteristics and traits of successful people who achieve at the highest level. Despite their different fields of endeavour, it was fascinating to note the similarities in mindset, clarity of thinking and absolute dedication to task shared by the Minister and Katrin. The mutual respect was obvious.”

Likewise, Ms Bishop spoke highly of her meeting with the Rio 2016 Olympic cyclist.

“Katrin is a great ambassador for the sport of cycling,” she said.

“It was a pleasure to meet with her today to discuss the upcoming Commonwealth Games and her future ambitions. I wish Katrin and the Australian Cycling Team every success in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.”

German-born Garfoot was already highly accomplished before she pulled on her first lycra race suit. She was a secondary school teacher with a Bachelor of Sports Science, a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Biology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Secondary Education before she added professional athlete to her list of accolades.

The Gold Coast based athlete didn’t actually start cycling seriously until she joined her husband Chris on a mountain bike ride one fateful day in 2008. After making the move to road cycling, she raced her first competition in 2011 at the age of 30 and won the Australian National Road Series two years later. She signed her first professional contract with Orica-AIS in 2014 before winning bronze at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The three-time World Championship representative placed ninth in the Individual Time Trial at her Olympic debut at Rio 2016.

Even though her focus is currently on another Commonwealth Games podium in her home town next month, Garfoot is realistic about her future career prospects after her sporting career, which is what inspired her to sign up for the AOC’s mentoring program in the first place.

“I think athletes should start thinking about this transition well before their competitive sporting career comes to an end. So when I saw that the AOC offered the opportunity to participate in this mentor program I jumped at it,” she said.

“Athletes are usually not aware of what they could contribute to business and life after their career because they are so focused on what they are doing now. I believe mentorship programs can prepare competing athletes for a life after their sporting career through broadening the athlete’s awareness and giving them guided and valuable insights into work life.

“This will get the athletes thinking about that change so it’s not such a big shock when it happens. You must have a plan. After all, it is daunting to think about what actually comes after an elite sporting career.”

Lamont said it was an “honour to be approached by the AOC to become a mentor in this program” and to use his personal experiences to help guide Katrin in her future endeavours.

“For me personally and professionally, one of the great benefits of being a mentor is the opportunity of being a positive part of someone’s development. It’s a bit like the sense of pride I get as a new father teaching my two-year old son to ride his bike, except Katrin didn’t need any help in that department.

“For so many elite athletes the prospect of transitioning to a ‘new’ life once their competitive sporting career is finished can be terrifying. For many Olympians, their incredible dedication and the sacrifices they make for their sport has dominated their lives to the exclusion of all else. As such, I see the primary role of the mentor as being one of demystifying the unknown and providing connections to a range of choices for what comes next.”

Katrin Garfoot and John Lamont are one of 10 pairs undertaking the AOC’s pilot Olympians Mentor Program, in conjunction with Melbourne start up Mentorloop, which is part of the broader AOC Athlete Transition Program. For more information on the mentoring program and other opportunities for the Olympians Alumni, click HERE.

Georgia Thompson

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