Special Olympian Chelsea Werner Told Us How She Conquers Fears

When Chelsea Werner, a 25-year-old from Danville, CA, was diagnosed with Down syndrome, doctors told her parents that she would have low muscle tone for the rest of her life. Still, they enrolled her in a range of sports at a young age including soccer, baseball, swimming, and gymnastics. But something about gymnastics clicked.

Werner started working with a gymnastics coach, Dawn Pombo. Her local Special Olympics program in northern California was canceled, so Werner trained directly with USA Gymnastics. With Pombo's help, Werner learned to master the uneven bars and balance beam, but she really shined during the floor routine. For four years in a row, Werner competed in the Special Olympics National Gymnastics Championships and won.

These days, Werner still trains and competes in gymnastics around the world, but is now focused on expanding her modeling career. Werner signed with WeSpeak, a modeling agency that's committed to representing health conscious, drug-free models of all sizes and backgrounds, and she has walked in New York Fashion Week runway shows and starred in an H&M campaign.

Ahead, we talked to Werner about how she finds the strength to conquer her fears.

What's your favorite thing about gymnastics?

"I love performing for people. The crowd loves watching me do my floor routine so that’s my favorite event! I also love my teammates!"
What's the hardest thing about gymnastics?

"The longer I do it, the harder and more dangerous the skills get."
Do you get nervous trying new skills? How do you get over that fear?

"Yes [I get nervous]. My coach is good at breaking new skills down into smaller steps."
What advice would you give someone trying a new sport?

"Don’t be afraid to try something new! Be patient. It takes a while to learn something new. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Find a coach that believes in you."
What are you working on next?

"I’m working on a front tuck and back tuck for my floor routine. I can do them but not good enough to put in my routine yet."
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