“Never stop failing” is one of the best pieces of advice Alysha Newman has ever been given. The Canadian Commonwealth champion pole-vaulter and Olympian says she’s learnt more from failure than from triumph. Not that failure seems to be an issue when it comes to her career. In fact, it’s the times when her body has been most likely to let her down – but she’s pushed on regardless – that she rates as her greatest achievements.
“My proudest moment on the track was winning gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia,” she says. “I went into the competition as an underdog with a partially torn patellar tendon and a sprained ankle. With the odds stacked against me, I not only won but set a new Canadian record in the process.”
Then there was the time that the 25-year-old competed in Europe while “sick with a cold, coughing, sneezing and feeling weak”. That day she tied for first place and broke another Canadian record. It was also when she learnt that “your body always has your back – it’s on your side”.
Ahead of the curve
World-class success and the ability to triumph over adversity have given Newman huge respect for her potential. It’s a sentiment she encourages women everywhere to embrace, also acknowledging that while we’re all different, it’s precisely that difference that should define us in a positive way. “I’m proud of my body as a female athlete,” she says. “Talent comes in all shapes, sizes, colours, religions and curves.”
Her attitude and physique are what cinched her latest role as ambassador for luxury lingerie brand Agent Provocateur. Its Play to Win campaign depicts four top athletes in all their “sculpted, sweating glory… pushing themselves higher, faster and stronger”.
Clad in lacy lingerie and a jewelled-effect bodychain, Newman took to the track. But even as an athlete who’s used to having her body on show, she admits: “I stepped out of my comfort zone to show this side of me.” It’s something she recommends, saying it brings confidence and opportunities she never thought possible. “I do things that scare me and grant me knowledge, because knowledge is power. The more I know about myself, the more I’ll accomplish.”
Newman’s achievements go well beyond the track and she says her favourite part of her highly trained body is actually her brain: “I love how creative and mentally strong I’m becoming. When I set my mind to something, I see it through. If I encounter obstacles, I shift to plan B. Anything’s possible if you work hard and believe in yourself.”
Mindset naturally plays a big part in competitive performance, and it was early in her career that a coach explained the importance of mastering the mental side of being an athlete. “It’s an aspect of pole-vaulting I love,” she says. “Once you’ve figured that out, you can bring spice to your jumping and competitions. And nothing compares to the feeling of winning.”
It’s this mindset that saw her win a full scholarship to the University of Miami, from which she graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, with a minor in sports medicine. At the same time she qualified to compete in her first Summer Olympic Games, in Rio.
A fan of pushing boundaries in all aspects of life, Newman reflects on the evolving role of sportswomen as influencers and is encouraged by changes she’s seen when it comes to increased funding and participation, and greater acceptance and interest among fans. “I’ve seen women in sport discover their voice. I’m excited because it’s only going to get better from here.”
Newman was a natural fit for Agent Provocateur’s Play to Win campaign, signing up alongside three other top competitors. “As women, we’re stronger when we work together,” she says.
The four athletes were carefully selected by the brand’s creative director, Sarah Shotton, who explains: “It was important to pick sports that really showed the strength and power of the body, the femininity and beauty of these women – such as Alysha when she is running and pole-vaulting over the bar with sheer determination.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, “raising the bar” has always been Newman’s personal motto. “It’s what I live by, on and off the track. I believe you should perform every task like you’re fighting for a gold medal.” It goes back to her mantra to keep on learning. “By giving it your all, you can walk away with the win or another lesson learnt. You can always learn more and be better.”
Celebrating the extraordinary potential of the female body, Agent Provocateur’s #WePlaytoWin campaign highlights four elite sportswomen competing in the brand’s sensual and powerful S/S ’20 designs. For details of the lingerie featured above, and all other collections, visit agentprovocateur.com.