Janel Dyan

Women Crushing It Wednesday

#WCIW: Chelsea Werner

#IAmNYFW. Unfaltering Energy and Determination. Exceptional Athlete.

Californian gymnast Chelsea Werner was first enrolled in a gymnastics program by her parents when she was four years old. What began as a venture to build muscle tone and have fun, would eventually become Chelsea’s passion, pride, and discipline. When she was eight, her parents realized her affinity for the sport and sought out one of the best coaches in the business to train Chelsea. Her intense training, dedication, and exuberance would lead her to multiple national championships and even international awards. Through her hard work, positivity, and talent, she would also become an inspiration to millions. Throughout her life, she has constantly defied expectations and exceeded her physical “limitations”. Chelsea was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at age four.

The Coach who began working with Chelsea at eight years old, was Dawn Pombo. Of Chelsea’s early years she has said, "Chelsea's ability in the beginning was not very good. She was very excited, but physically, she could barely walk on the balance beam one direction and back without falling. The obstacle in the beginning was strength. She just lacked muscle tone."  Despite the hours and hours of work, numerous falls and setbacks, and competitions that led to no awards... Chelsea never, ever gave up. She persisted. She worked harder. Pombo was so impressed by Werner’s excitement and improvement that she decided to intensify her training. "I would say to her parents, 'I'm going to try to teach her, you know, a back handspring,'” Pombo said. "They're like, 'Oh, there's no way. Are you kidding? No, I think she can do it.'" 

Chelsea did do it. She became proficient in the floor and beam events and continued to compete in the local Special Olympics until they dropped the gymnastics program in 2006. The young gymnast, however, was not to be deterred. With the support of her family and fundraising efforts, eventually called Chelsea’s Quest, Werner was able to travel to other competitions. While she often came in last place, Chelsea still was not deterred. She continued to train and to improve—eventually training up to sixteen hours per week. This training eventually led to great improvement and she received numerous awards, including Special Olympics United States Gymnastics Champion in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, Down Syndrome International World Champion (in London) in 2012, and Down Syndrome International World Championships (Won Gold-Floor, Gold-Bars, Gold-Vault, Silver-Beam, Gold-All Around) in Milan, Italy in 2015.

Due to her remarkable accomplishments and eternal optimism, Chelsea has been featured on the Today Show as part of their “I Am Unbroken” series, in a campaign for H&M, commercials for P&G, and has modeled in Los Angeles and New York Fashion Weeks. 

For her unfaltering energy and determination, and athleticism that defies all odds, #IAmNYFW model and gymnast Chelsea Werner is this week’s #WCIW.

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