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Meet Zali Steggall, the woman who took on Tony Abbott - and won!

Abbott has held that seat for 25 years - until now.

By Rebecca Sullivan
Just a few months ago, former Olympic skiier-turned family law barrister Zali Steggall had no idea she was about to become one of the most talked-about women in Australia.
But just a few days into 2019, Steggall joined the astonishingly successful Vote Tony Out campaign and agreed to run as an independent candidate for Abbott's seat of Warringah on Sydney's northern beaches.
The aim was to obliterate Tony Abbott at Saturday's federal election - and she did just that - winning 57.7 per cent of the primary vote and taking the safe Liberal seat away from Abbott for the first time in 25 years.
Steggall put her legal practice on hold and has spent the past few months campaigning fiercely against Abbott as an independent candidate, with her major point-of-difference between the 45-year-old and the former PM being her clear belief in climate change - and her passionate desire to actually do something about it.
The bronze Olympic medallist, who is Australia's most internationally successful alpine skier, now stays fit with regular Crossfit workouts and also runs 18-hour 100km ultra marathons with her husband, Tim Irving.
That incredible passion and drive that helped her succeed in sport is the same fuel helped this remarkable woman topple one of the stalwarts of modern Australian politics.
"I felt strongly that it was important and I'm a very decisive person. I make my mind up very quickly," Steggall told The Australian Women's Weekly in an in-depth interview to be revealed in the new June issue, on sale from Thursday 23rd.
Here's everything you need to know about the new Member for Warringah.
Zali ran as an independent candidate for the seat of Warringah on Sydney's northern beaches. (Image: Supplied)
She took over Warringah from Abbott - a seat he had held since 1994. (Image: Instagram @timesuptony)

Her first husband was also an athlete

Steggall and Olympic rower David Cameron were married for four years between 2002 and 2006 and they have two children together, Rex and Remy.
Speaking about the split in 2007, Steggall told The Daily Telegraph the break up had "come out of the blue", but was now "amicable, if not always friendly", for the sake of their boys.
"You don't expect it to happen to you, but I guess you can't be good at everything,'' she told the newspaper, claiming that her former husband had the "seven year itch".
Zali Steggall (centre) pictured with her ex-husband David Cameron (left) and Tiffany Henderson in 2000. (Image: Getty Images)
Zali (right) with Susie O'Neill, Michael Klim and Liz Weekes in 2000. (Image: Getty Images)

And lately David Cameron's had a LOT to say about his ex-wife

In the hours following the horrific Christchurch terror attacks in March, Steggall sent out a tweet which Cameron said unnecessarily politicised the tragic event.
"There were so many positive things to share until the news of the terrorist attack in Christchurch hit. Such a stark and horrific reminder of where extreme ideology hate and divisive speech leads. We have to do better. My deepest condolences to the families. #warringahvotes #auspol," she tweeted.
In response, her ex-husband David Cameron wrote on Twitter: "What sort of opportunistic person puts a promotional hashtag in a tweet intended for the condolences of a grieving nation? Idiot."
Mr Cameron's new wife Bridie Nolan (the pair married in 2012) then called on Steggall to quit as a candidate, writing: "You are showing you do not have what it takes. Withdraw now before you embarrass your family further. This and your tweet from Friday really are disgraceful."
Both later deleted their tweets and retracted their comments.
Steggall declined to comment about the events at the time.
The two candidates having a heated debate about climate change. (Image: AAP)
Playing nice on the campaign trail. (Image: AAP)

Her new husband Tim happily shares the load at home

When asked by The Weekly about his wife's decision to take on such a big role, Tim says there was "no big discussion".
"It wasn't a quantum leap. I knew Zali wanted to make a difference. It was a very quick conversation: 'I can see this working, we know how we operate as a family, this will be fine'," he revealed.
"I said: 'You focus 100 per cent on the campaign. I'll focus on the home front.' Zali and I have been together nearly 13 years and have a history of working like this.
"If Zali is in a legal case for four months, I do what's required – pick up kids or cook dinner. She covers for me when I have a big project. We had runs on the board. We obviously had to talk to kids and parents but everyone was incredibly supportive."
It's a heartwarming and refreshing approach, in a country where the majority of mothers are the primary carers at home, juggling work and children at the same time.
Zali Steggall with her husband Tim Irving and sons Rex (L) and Remy (R) Cameron at her Warringah campaign launch earlier this year. (Image: AAP)
Tim says part of the reason why his wife is so good at what she does is her background in sport.
"To give you an idea about Zali, we are both into ultra marathons. Zali does 100km races through the bush. These take 18 hours and you go through some dark places," he said.
On one 50km event, Tim reached such a dark place at 15km that he couldn't continue.
"I told Zali, 'You go on,' but she said, 'No, no, no. I'm sticking with you.' She supported me through the remaining 35km and literally put her hand on my backside and pushed me up 971 stairs to get to the finish line.
"She's tough. She will support you. She never, ever, ever quits."
Similarly, he adds, when she was still a teenager, her French ski coach told her she was good but would never be great.
"That drove her to an Olympic medal [in 1998] and then the next year to become best in the world."
As an athlete, she had to be available to sponsors and to make presentations, plus: "You don't start off knowing how to run 100km. It's something you learn – just like being a politician."
WATCH BELOW: Tony Abbott interrupts Zali Steggall during media interview. Story continues after video.
Zali fought tooth and nail against Mr Abbott - at times during the campaign the pair were neck-and-neck, with both candidates sitting at 50-50.
But early on Saturday night, it was clear that she was the firm winner, with Abbott losing almost 13 per cent of his primary vote from the 2016 election.
Nonetheless, the scrutiny has been intense and the relentless campaigning exhausting.
Did she ever wish she hadn't put her hand up?
"Not at all," Zali told The Weekly cheerfully.
"As Tim says: If we see something difficult, he takes a step back to consider, while I take a step forward to have a closer look. I'm generally up for a challenge."
Read our in-depth profile on Zali Steggall in the June issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale next Thursday 23rd.

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