Danielle Woodward returns to Olympic Team

A lady holding a medal in one hand and a stuff toy, a boxing kangaroo, in the other

What does a three-time Olympian and Australian Federal Police investigator do when her time as an elite athlete comes to an end? She gets invited to participate in four more Olympic Games.

It is now more than 25 years since an aspiring young canoeist, Danielle Woodward, was selected to compete at her first Olympics – that was Barcelona in 1992.

She took leave from the AFP to compete in those Games and her many years of training and gruelling competition around the world saw her rewarded with a silver medal in the K1 slalom event.

While that may well be her canoeing career highlight, Danielle went on to become a three time Olympian, also competing at Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000).

When Danielle retired from competition soon after the Sydney Olympics she may have believed that was the end of her Olympic journey. But that is far from the case.

She was on the Australian Olympic Committee Executive from 2013-2017 and Chair and President of Australian Canoeing between 2008 and 2016. Moreover, she has become an integral part of the Australian Olympics support team, travelling to London (2012), Sochi (2014), Rio de Janeiro (2016) and she is currently in Pyeongchang as the Director of Athlete Services for the Australian Winter Games team. This follows on from her role as deputy chef de mission for the Aussies at the Rio Summer Olympics.

"At this stage in my life and career I feel very honoured and very privileged to continue to be asked to be a part of the Australian Olympic Team," Danielle said.

"I'm at the stage in life where I wanted to give back and it is a tremendous privilege to be able to attend an Olympics in any role – I guess there's something about sport in nearly every Australian's blood.

"I've had a very lucky life, travelled to many wonderful places and the Olympic Games have been very good to me."

Danielle humbly describes her role with the Australian Olympic team as 'a bit of a jack of all trades'.

"My role really has a bit of everything. I'm there to help care for the athletes' needs outside of their actual performance.

"Every athlete has different needs and challenges. Some get homesick, others get bored and some become overawed by the big occasion.

"There is so much expectation on some of our athletes to perform and to medal. To achieve a personal best at an Olympics competition is an incredible achievement but because of all the hype around medals, athletes who do really well can still feel let down by the whole event.

"What we need to remember is that reaching an Olympics alone puts you amongst the world's best and anything above that really is a bonus.

"I see my role as helping to take the pressure off the coaches and on occasion I'm the one who has to say 'no'. So, I guess that's when I play bad cop.

"It's great to get to know the athletes; their stories and their human side. We share all their highs and their lows."

Danielle believes her 32 years with the Australian Federal Police – mainly in investigative roles – has stood her in good stead for her Olympic role.

"Just as with the AFP, at the Olympics you have to remain calm under pressure and prepare for the unexpected. It is important to think logically and the AFP has given me that bigger picture planning perspective.

"People have to trust you and rely heavily on you in the support role because we are the 'go to' people."

Danielle expects her role in South Korea to be multi-faceted, as it has been at other Games.

"They are marathon days – early starts and late finishes and you're on call 24/7. It's not as stressful as being an athlete, and while it is physically exhausting, it gives so much satisfaction."

And on her return from Korea, Danielle won't have long to recover before her next sporting deployment. She is excited to have been asked to support the Australian team at the upcoming Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April 2018.

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang run from 9 to 25 February.

Portrait of Danielle Woodward
Danielle Woodward has become an integral part of the Australian Olympics support team, travelling to London (2012), Sochi (2014), Rio de Janeiro (2016). She is now currently in Pyeongchang as the Director of Athlete Services for the Australian Winter Games team.

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