Jenny Onasanya made a successful switch from throwing javelins to pushing bobsleighs at the top level. Her journey has been an emotional one and she's not finished yet...
Credit: Rekords IBSF
TBM: Hey Jenny! Thanks a lot for giving us your time. Let's get straight into it, tell us about your sporting background and how you found your way into bobsleigh...
JO: Ooh ok that’s a long story. I started sport in track and field where I competed in javelin. My friend Karlien Sleper (Dutch monobob pilot), was the one who got me involved in this whole bobsledding thing! We used to compete against each other in javelin and she said I was strong and tough so maybe come and try bobsleigh.
She mentioned that Kati Beierl (Austrian bob pilot) was coming over to the Netherlands to train and would I like to go and train with them? I did, and basically never left! It’s been awesome ever since. The sport is insane, you know, the speed and the power - I just love it.
Kati asked me to come over to Austria to train where I had my first proper bob pushes on the push track in Igls, Innsbruck. After that, I had push selections in Berchtesgaden (Koniggssee), and it kind of rolled on from there.
Kati sat on Jenny's hand in this pic. Or she's celebrating. You decide
TBM: So you are Dutch but compete for Austria?
JO: Yes, well when I first started, Karlien actually tried to get me to slide for the Dutch as they were trying to set up a new team. So yeah, my first time sliding was actually as a pilot! I hadn’t actually pushed at this point, I just drove in Lillehammer, Norway, with another girl.
Sorry yeah, so I guess the career sort of started there. But anyway, after those first few runs I crashed like sh**! I was like - ‘I’m out!’. We started with 2-man, me driving and the other girl in the back and I was just pulling on the D-rings, trying to steer and not knowing what I was doing! I thought, ‘I don’t like this, I’m not going to keep doing this.’
Then we went sliding in Winterberg and crashed even more there so we all stopped! Then Karlien mentioned about Austria as a brake athlete so now it’s been 4 years of pushing for them.
Getting ready for racing
TBM: We know you work a lot harder than the average professional athlete, tell us about your job...
JO: I’m a social worker, working with young adults who are mentally disabled. They have a lot of aggression issues and all live at this house that I work at. That’s my full-time job but I normally work even longer hours. I’m contracted to 36 hours but usually do 40+.
That makes it pretty hard to combine training with it. Work is mentally and physically exhausting so even when I do get a chance to train it’s tough to work up the energy. But they are super supportive, I get 3 months off work in the winter to compete. They love the bobsleigh thing and just ask me to send the streaming links so they can watch me compete.
Medal fun in Calgary, Canada