Nikita Ducarroz of Glen Ellen makes Olympic debut
JULY 1, 2021
By Brandon Sparks
Ranked second in the world in freestyle BMX, Nikita Ducarroz is set to ride in the freestyle BMX Olympics competition in Tokyo in July, representing the Switzerland on the track. She is one of the sport’s female icons, inspiring many other women to become involved as well.
Born in France and raised in Glen Ellen, Ducarroz, 24, has been placing first or second in international competitions for the past several years. Ducarroz spent her school days in the Sonoma Valley and her summers in Geneva. She has been riding since 2010, when she discovered freestyle BMX while watching YouTube one day. She enjoyed that she did not have to rely on a team and could explore her own creativity, stating, “It’s all about finding your own style and creating your personal art.” She had just quit her soccer team due to anxiety and panic attacks, so she would practice BMX in her driveway alone to stay active, later getting involved at the local skatepark. She began to attend local events and slowly expanded to events around the world as she continued to perfect her craft.
Social media was a big part of Ducarroz’s career, as it allowed her to make connections with many people in the sport, in addition to gaining support from followers who motivated her to continue and push herself to a higher level.
“BMX is like a huge family. With family comes ups and downs, of course, but we all grew up riding together and just doing it for fun. When it’s not a competition, we have many countries riding together and pushing each other to be better. We really play off of each other.”
One of the biggest challenges for Ducarroz was her “mentality.” She had to overcome the anxiety of doing scary tricks that are hard to complete, or things that took her out of her comfort zone, experiencing endless panic attacks that took a toll on her. But despite all the lows she experienced, the highs made it all worth the battle. “There have been some amazing moments of landing those new tricks, showing myself I could overcome those fears, meeting people from all over the world and being able to experience things that are pretty special, I think,” she says.
Being an Olympian is not something many athletes can call themselves, as it is one of the most elite sports competitions in the world and one of the highest honors an athlete can hold. Ducarroz says the feeling of being an Olympian hasn’t hit her yet, and she doesn’t expect it to hit until she is on her way to Tokyo or landing at the airport.
“It’s all we’re talking about, yet I still just see other professional athletes I look up to as Olympians and I’m just another person there. Since our sport just got added, I didn’t ever think this was an option as a BMX rider. Now I have a chance to show the entire world what freestyle BMX is and how passionate we all are for this sport.” says Ducarroz. “I also have dual citizenship and will be representing Switzerland, which doesn’t have many freestyle riders on the world circuit, so I’m really honored to be in this position and having the opportunity to fly the Swiss flag.”
Ducarroz joined the freestyle BMX sport when not many women were doing it. She was the only woman practicing at her local skatepark when she was young, but she has become an inspiration to younger female riders as she dominated the sport in her rise to Olympic competition. Her presence on social media, along with her creativity in competition and the videos she has created, have become one of the best resources for helping others to discover BMX. She also uses her social media presence to talk openly about mental health issues, which makes her more engaging than many other riders who stay away from social media.
“It seems like every time I post something, people reach out saying thanks or they open up about their own struggles. It’s always been a good response and it encourages me to keep posting, to hopefully lessen the stigma around it.” Together with her friend Patrick Kelly, Ducarroz cofounded a mental health awareness campaign called MindTricks.
Ducarroz hopes that her Olympic debut will motivate and inspire many people around the world to take up freestyle BMX after showing her creativity in competition alongside her fellow competitors on the track. When asked what she would tell someone who is just starting out and wants to become a rider in the future, she responds that you should do it for you. “Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. That isn’t to say you can’t take advice from more experienced riders, but remember it’s about doing what makes you happy. When you are riding how you want to ride and showing your personal style, people will notice that. Staying true to yourself and remaining authentic goes a long way.”
Follow Ducarroz on Instagram (nikita. ducarroz) or Twitter (@NikitaDucarroz) to learn more, and keep an eye out for her during the Summer Games. The BMX events will air on NBC July 28 through July 31. You can find the full Olympics viewing schedule at www.nbcolympics.com/full-schedule.