Ellesse Andrews is a 22-year-old track cyclist who represents New Zealand on the world stage. She was born in Ōtautahi, but grew up in Wānaka, attending Mount Aspiring College before moving to St Peter’s Cambridge for her final two years of schooling.
Her father, Jon, also a former Olympic and Commonwealth cyclist, took up the role of a high-performance coach with Cycling New Zealand (CNZ), so Ellesse finished her schooling while enrolled in the CNZ Junior programme.
Ellesse, who started competitive cycling at 14, won four medals, including two gold at the UCI Junior World Track Cycling World Championships in 2016 and 2017. She is fiercely competitive and determined, and her parents say her psychological approach to sprinting has reached a new level.
Ellesse Andrews’ precocious ability on a bike is nothing new.
Recently, she came home from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with three gold medals in sprint, team sprint and women’s keirin, as well as a silver in the team pursuit, making her part of an elite group of New Zealand athletes who have won three gold medals at a single Commonwealth Games. They now hang next to the Olympic silver medal she gained at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Ellesse is also currently studying psychology off the track, something she is passionate about. After losing her friend and former teammate Olivia Podmore last year, she became part of the Voices of Hope Behind the Jersey campaign, which helps spark a conversation around mental health.
While still on her own mental health journey, she believes being a part of this campaign will help create a legacy in women’s sport by supporting other wāhine to speak up and engage in conversation about mental health.
What constitutes a good day?
It is really important as a sportsperson to have other things in my day apart from sport; exercise is a massive part of wellbeing. Getting out in the sun appreciating NZ, moving my body,
listening to music, and eating good food.
One thing you could not live without?
Good music puts me in such a great mood – music is such a massive part of expressing creativity and my overall enjoyment.
Who or what inspires you and why?
My family – amazing support network for me – in sport and in general life. My family is made up of incredibly talented and awesome people.
Highlight in the last year and why?
Realising my own strength – mentally and physically. Looking back and overcoming adversity and thriving through challenging times and pushing through to brighter ones, in sport and personally. Coming through things, such as getting COVID-19 two weeks before the Commonwealth Games, was a massive challenge.
Favourite way to chill out? Favourite place?
I love going to my home in Te Waipounamu and places such as Wānaka, Castle Hill and the Craigieburn Range to relax and reset with whānau. Being outdoors with loved ones.
What FOOD could you not live without?
Fresh summer food: produce, fresh salads.
What meal do you cook the most?
A classic NZ roast potato dish with meat and salad.
Olympic silver is definitely one because I was such an underdog. To pull it out of the bag so unexpectedly was special. Commonwealth Games three golds:
never dreamed of that, especially after contracting COVID-19.
Do you have an aspiration for Ngāi Tahu to achieve by 2025?
I would love to be more involved in learning about whakapapa, and incorporating te reo into my everyday life. I think all Ngāi Tahu whānau should invest more time in learning about where they are from and sharing the simplicities but wonders of our heritage – e.g. more waiata.