Angela Cullen, the physical and mental key to Lewis Hamilton’s success in Formula 1

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The New Zealand physiotherapist is 46 years old and has three children, trained with Aki Hintsa, the doctor who guided the English at the beginning of his career, and wants to go around the world by bicycle.

On October 28, 2018, Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line of the Grand Prix of Mexico in fourth place. It was enough to celebrate: he had won his fifth title in Formula 1 and equaled the mark of Juan Manuel Fangio. He arrived at the pits of the Hermanos Rodríguez racetrack, got out of his Mercedes, greeted Sebastian Vettel -his top competitor- and could not concentrate on the first question from David Coulthard, interviewer of the official broadcast. His gaze drifted to a short blond woman who jumped nonstop surrounded by mechanics. The Englishman apologized and went to hug her. The feet of Angela Cullen they took off from the ground and when they stepped again they did so by jumping, to the rhythm of the pilot.

The hugs and celebrations that multiplied in this season, in which the Englishman became the most winning rider in history, had begun in 2016, when the New Zealand physiotherapist filled the space he had left Aki Hintsa. The Finnish doctor, who died later that year, guided Hamilton at the start of his Formula 1 career and was Cullen’s mentor at Hintsa Performance Academy. Also, the one responsible for crossing their paths.

Is that after 11 years as McLaren’s medical manager, in addition to having 12 drivers on the grid under his charge, Hintsa left Formula 1 in 2013 and created a comprehensive health center in Geneva (Switzerland), where He attached great importance to physiotherapy to avoid surgical interventions that were not essential.

Cullen joined in 2014, after meeting a friend, Pete McKnight, at a ski resort in the French Alps and learning of Hintsa’s work with runners, Olympians and F1 drivers.

“The Hintsa philosophy and wellness model, which understands that ‘performance is a by-product of well-being’, resonated with me and reflected my beliefs and ideals of understanding human performance. It was then that I decided to join as physical therapist and performance coach at Hintsa Performance, “Cullen said on the health center’s website.

Two years later, it became the first physiotherapist to work with a Formula 1 driver. “The biggest surprise is the fact that I work in motorsports,” he admitted. “Historically, drivers have had male strength trainers and I think I was the first physiotherapist and definitely the first woman to participate.”

If Aki had been key for Hamilton to face the torments generated by having broken his relationship with his father, when he decided that Anthony should stop being his manager in 2010, Angela gave him physical and mental stability: changed eating habits from English, who became vegan in 2017; applied the NASA health program, with special emphasis on sleep to overcome the jet lag; and managed to isolate himself from the extra sports that happens every weekend in the paddock, where it assists you in every need: from wearing your helmet to making running in one of the paradisiacal places that they share thanks to motor racing.

Hamilton traded the holidays for noble causes. Those photos of Hamilton were no longer seen in the media, such as when in 2016 he disguised himself as the Joker in a Halloween celebration in New York that he attended with Serena Williams or when a year later he uploaded images of a meeting with Neymar and models of Victoria’s Secret in London.

It evolved into a committed activist for the environment, first, and for the campaign “Black Lives Matter” this year, participating in a demonstration in Hyde Park in June. As in the circuits, there his shadow was also Cullen.

Shortly after, with the F1 season underway but traversed by the coronavirus pandemic, he led the fight in his black T-shirt before each Grand Prix.

Although he came into his life as his physical therapist, Cullen became involved in Hamilton’s pursuits and made them his own. In its feed of Instagram, which is divided between his days in the paddock and his moments of relaxation, but of the one that leaves out his personal life, he drives the movement that fights to end racial violence.

This quasi-symbiotic relationship is based on the empathy and respect that both show each other and also on the loyalty, word (loyalty) that both got tattooed on their wrists.

Recently, they both expressed it publicly. Cullen did it when Hamilton reached 91 wins and she wrote on her Instagram: “You really deserve every one of those 91 wins. You are not only an amazing athlete, but one of the most loving, humble, genuine and beautiful souls I know. … and a great inspiration for me and for many. I am very proud and happy for you. “

He, perhaps because Cullen is the only woman who works with an F1 driver, endorsed her at the press conference after the Portuguese GP, where he ended up with a cramp in his right calf. “Yes, I’ll seek medical attention later. Angela is a real physical therapist,” he stressed. “Many coaches claim they are real physical therapists, but they are not; most of them are not physical therapists.”

Two mottos guide the life of Angela Cullen: “Living the life I believe in” Y “Being the best that I can be”. At 46 years old, the New Zealander left the tranquility of family life with a partner and three children in Menthon-Saint-Bernard, in the French mountains and less than an hour from Geneva, to accompany Hamilton in the crazy day-to-day of Formula 1.

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