Chelsea Werner, a 26-year-old woman from Danville, Calif. with Down syndrome, realizes that life is all about balance. It’s something the former champion gymnast learned away from the balance beam.
Werner, who still competes in gymnastics around the world, is also a model. She signed with We Speak, a New York-based agency that aims to create a positive change in fashion advertising by working with women who have a “positive outlook, healthy lifestyle, and unique features.”
“I don’t think people with Down syndrome are represented enough,” Werner told A Plus. “The more we are represented, the more people will see how capable we are.”
Since signing with We Speak, Werner has walked in New York Fashion Week runway shows and been featured in an H&M campaign.
“I hope my story helps others know that anything is possible. Everyone has challenges in their lives but it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes all the difference,” Werner told Love What Matters.
Werner’s confidence as a model was cultivated in gymnastics, a sport she got involved in at 4 years old. Since then, she’s won the Special Olympics National Championship four consecutive times despite doctors telling her parents that she would always have low muscle tone.
“I’ve been doing gymnastics [for] as long as I can remember,” Werner told A Plus. “I feel like it’s always been a part of my life. I think gymnastics has trained me to be disciplined and to work hard. In gymnastics, each new skill takes a very long time — sometimes years! I think that it has given me confidence.”
Werner has never been afraid to put in the hard work. When she first started in the sport, she struggled mightily.
“Chelsea’s ability in the beginning was not very good,” her coach, Dawn Pombo, told Today. “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.”
But, Pombo held her accountable.
“She [Pombo] made me do things over and over again,” Werner explained. “As I moved to harder skills, it got much harder. Dawn figured out how to break them down into smaller steps.”
With those high expectations and a spectacular drive, she went on to win four Special Olympic National Championships and two World Championships.
So, when it comes to walking down a wide runway, Werner doesn’t bat an eye. After all, she’s taken on a six-inch balance beam with gold on the line.
You can follow Werner on Instagram at ShowTimeWerner.