6 January 2021

How Canberra’s Rebecca Wiasack became a world champion in five years

| Tim Gavel
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Rebecca Wiasack

Five years after taking up cycling, Rebecca Wiasack won her first world title. Photo: Kirsty Baxter.

At 18 years of age, Rebecca Wiasack moved to Canberra to study at the University of Canberra. She wanted to become a sports journalist.

She was also an aspiring athlete, having won a state title over 800 metres, but her focus was on journalism.

Bec was busy balancing her UC double degree in Sports Media and Law, maintaining her running, and gaining funds to live.

Legendary running coach Dick Telford even allowed her to train with his squad, even though she didn’t have an AIS scholarship.

Bec progressed through UC while training with Dick’s squad. In her third year, following an internship, she was offered a job at The Canberra Times.

The Bachelor of Law degree was dropped and she became a full-time sports journalist.

Bec remembers: “I found it hard to be fit while working full-time with different hours, and I was essentially running for fun.”

Eighteen months into covering everything in Canberra sport, she moved into PR followed by a job at the Runner’s Shop in a bid to get some normality in her life. This would also allow her to return to training.

As Bec threw herself into her role at the Runner’s Shop, she started dabbling in triathlons under the guidance of Ben Gathercole.

She competed for Australia at the age-group world championships on the Gold Coast and in Europe.

To her surprise, her run leg was the weakest link. Cycling, on the other hand, had become her strength.

“I convinced Ben to help me do a criterium,” Bec says. “I knew nothing about cycling when I took up the sport. I hadn’t even watched the Tour de France.”

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Determined to push her talent as a cyclist even further, Bec approached ACTAS coaches Glen Doney and John Forrest.

“I went to the ACTAS gym to make enquiries about becoming a cyclist. John said he had come across triathletes who wanted to be cyclists. He said if I was serious about it, I needed to be prepared to give up running.”

So in 2010, Bec started her career in cycling, armed with minimal experience in the sport apart from reading as much as she could on the subject.

Five years after taking up the sport she won her first world title in the three-kilometre individual pursuit in Paris.

“The following year, in 2016, I won the world championship in the individual pursuit in London, then in 2017 I was in the team pursuit.”

Bec joined a pro-team in America and her future looked bright.

Rebecca Wiasack at the Commonwealth Games

Rebecca Wiasack competing at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Photo: Tim Bardsley Smith.

She made the Australian team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and won a silver medal.

It was to be her final race on the track. While training in the US, she was told she’d lost her scholarship.

Not to be defeated, Bec turned her full-time focus to road cycling, winning the National Criterium title twice. She also won the Colorado Classic in 2019 before finishing back in the field this year in the criterium at the National Championships.

Things don’t stand still for long in Bec’s life.

In March, she married fellow Canberra cyclist Ben Hill before giving birth to their first child, daughter Ava, in October.

“It’s been overwhelming. Nothing can prepare you for this.”

Rebecca Wiasack with partner Ben Hill and baby Ava. Photo: Supplied.

Rebecca with husband, Ben Hill, and daughter, Ava. Photo: Supplied.

Now at 36 years of age, and 10 years after taking up cycling, Bec, who now works at the AIS, hasn’t closed the door on making it back to the summit of world cycling.

Her focus has been on supporting Ben, who finished fifth in this year’s UCI E-Sports World Championships, where cyclists competed in their own homes using the Zwift Indoor training platform.

Bec says the emergence of this style of cycling competition could prolong her career as she could race without leaving her lounge room.

“I would like to get fit again, maybe do some E-Racing. I think that could definitely be an option for women with families.”

There’s no reason to suggest that she can’t make it back to the top, given her track record of achievement thus far.

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