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World Skeleton Champion Annie O’Shea on Transitioning into the workplace

“I had no idea what skeleton was, but my mom and dad knew about it from watching the 2002 Olympics in Utah. I went to Lake Placid, NY for a camp and was so scared of skeleton that I had tears in my eyes and didn’t want to do it again. In my mind I had already determined my college plans and scholarships but they had invited me back for another camp so I decided to go back two months later.

Annie O'Shea (centre)

“It was that moment I realised how much fun the sport was and that I could really succeed in it. At that point, I decided to change my plans for college and give skeleton a real try,” said Annie O’Shea a three-time national champion in Skeleton.

Annie was ranked fourth in the world and first in the USA, having competed in numerous world cups winning gold and silver in 2016 and silver in 2011. Although an impressive record, Annie’s ultimate dream was to compete in the Olympics – representing Team USA. Annie was sure the day would come after many years of hard work which saw her compete at the highest level against some of the most talented people in the sport. But, the phone call never came. Annie’s dream of becoming an Olympic athlete wasn’t to be – a huge blow to Annie and a set-back which many athletes face throughout their professional careers.

Instead of dwelling on the fact, Annie decided it was time to find her feet in a new high performing career, and through Athlete Career Transition was coupled with and Advisory role at EY.

A full-time training schedule meant that Annie has always been focused on her goals from the very beginning of her career at just 16-years-old, spending 35-40 hours a week training in Skeleton. On the off-season it would mean training Monday to Saturday where Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be her long days, running the track in the morning, doing sprint and plyometric workouts before heading directly into the weights room for strength and lifting sessions. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays were the days when Annie spent time on the running track and had longer temp training. As a high performer, training this intensely is something Annie thrived from which clearly shows in her results in the sport.

With many ups and downs in any sport, it’s understandable that many athletes will feel a wealth of emotions throughout their career. One of Annie’s proudest moments was a feeling of immense achievement during the 2015-2016 World Cup Season, “I was having a decent season and I was on my home track in Lake Placid. I had been unwell all week and was emotionally drained from things happening in my personal life. I only took on one of two training runs on offer the day before the race because I was exhausted .

“Race day came, and I was nervous. I was sitting in third place after the end of the first run, and was happy with that… I had the best run of my entire career during the second run, everything went right, and I felt like I was watching myself gracefully soar down the track. I got to the bottom, got off my sled and was happier than I had ever been. The remaining three girls [there was a tie for first] went after me and I stood watching with butterflies in my stomach.

“The last girl crossed the finish line and the clock showed red next to her name which meant I had won. I screamed so loud and started balling while jumping up and down… this was different, I finally overcame the stigma that I put on my home competitions and showed up on race day. It was my first and only gold medal during my 14 years competing and it will forever be my proudest moment,” said Annie O’Shea.

Now, it’s that time in Annie’s career to move forward and head-out of the sport she’s been so successful in, a challenge that all athletes must ultimately face. But, Annie is truly looking forward to being part of the EY team; “As an athlete you think of your life in four-year chunks, with the fourth year of the quad being your end result or your ‘future’. I am really excited to challenge myself with learning new skills and being out of my comfort zone,” continues Annie.

One of the many challenges Annie faces, like all athletes is transitioning their routine. Getting into a routine which includes working out is something Annie is finding difficult. Scheduling in advance to manage work, personal life and training is something Annie will have to become accustomed too to ensure her transition remains seamless. This is something the team at ACT support all athletes with on their individual transition journeys.

“Athletes come to us for any help they may need from a transition perspective, from guidance to talking about feelings, fears or reservations about the process, we are always here to talk through each situation individually. We give our athletes the resources to feel confident and informed about the journeys they’re about to embark upon. We always want our athletes to succeed in every part of their careers,” said Steve Moore, Ex-Welsh International Rugby player and co-founder of Athlete Career Transition.


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