Nikita Ducarroz represented Switzerland in the first ever BMX freestyle final at the Tokyo Olympics, winning a bronze medal for her country
By Eden Llodrá
Nikita Ducarroz, raised in Sonoma Valley, got into BMX riding through Youtube videos. She was self taught and a visual learner when it came to the sport. “When my family and I went camping at Sugarloaf,” she shared,“I would make little jumps to jump off on my bike.”
It all began as a fun hobby and regular time spent at the skate parks. Then, some little competitions here and there, but she said “at the time, as the only girl doing it, I didn't think I could make it a career.” When she began the sport there wasn’t a whole lot of female representation for BMX, however, Ducarroz said that social media helped her connect with other girls around the world and brands as well. These connections really got her going and led to overseas competitions, life-long friendships, and big sponsorships.
With all that is going on in our world today—not to mention the added pressure of an elite athlete’s training regime and competition schedule—the stress is unimaginable. Nevertheless, when speaking toDucarroz, her playfulness and comradery in her training style shows the true reason she fell in love with the sport to begin with.
In the training center she says “when one of us is scared to do a trick we make bets, so if someone does something that they have been really nervous to do then the other person has to do the trick that they are most nervous about, and things like that.” With hours of training everyday, it can be difficult to keep things feeling new and exciting, yet Ducarroz makes sure that her BMX career does not become monotonous. “When I start feeling burnt out and have dips in my training, when riding becomes not as exciting, I take a break until I crave it again.” She takes her training seriously, but does not lose sight of why she started riding in the first place. By leaving room to take breaks, her love for the sport is reborn.
When the pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020, Ducarroz was in the midst of moving to a house in North Carolina that was right next to a training center. The purpose of the move was to train more rigorously and she was lucky that she could still practice at the center with a small group. She said, “my training changed a lot during the pandemic, because I wasn’t getting ready for competitions anymore, but just practicing tricks. In some ways, it worked out for the better.” Although competitions were canceled due to COVID-19, it gave athletes like Ducarroz time to practice, regroup, and reconnect.
Throughout these last couple of years, there has been no doubt that people have experienced struggles with their mental health, even before the pandemic, and Olympians are no exception. Ducarroz shared that she has always struggled with anxiety and depression and started seeing a psychologist even before her career took off. She says “my mindset is always to take it one day at a time.”
With the looming possibility of the Olympics including freestyle BMX for the first time, Ducarroz wasn’t sure whether or not she would be able to compete in Tokyo. This doubt did not stop her from regularly training and getting herself mentally prepared.
When BMX finally made its debut at the Tokyo Olympics, Ducarroz was ready. Not only was she trained and conditioned for the competition, she knew what strategies worked for her to ease her stress. She said that she uses visualization and breathing techniques before a competition, as training the mind is just as important as training the body.
At the Olympic finals, Ducarroz shared a special moment. “As everyone was feeling the pressure, tense on the deck and people weren’t talking, my Australian friend broke the ice and said ‘hey we haven't hugged in a while.’” At that point, she said that the silence broke and the girls all came together to root each other on. They were all in it together.
Ducarroz shows us that we should never lose our playfulness, that breaks in routines leave room for appreciation to grow, that mental health comes equal to one’s physical health, and that without embracing others, we may never know the comradery in our successes.