Future Force Five


"Picture this. You’re a young, supremely talented athlete who just happens to be good looking. All of a sudden you’re smack bang in the media spotlight, hyped as the “face” of your sport. How do you deal with the attention? Do you use it to your advantage or run and hide? We probe five young athletes about expectations, exposure and everything in between."

Niki Gudex - Mountain Biker

Where you’ve seen her. Niki’s only been competing in mountain biking for three years, but boy has she made an impact! Ranked number two nationally in downhill (she was number one last year), one of Niki’s goals is to promote mountain biking as much as possible. She’s definitely achieving that. As part time sports model, she’s exposed mountain biking to the masses by appearing in over 20 print, film and television campaigns for everything from Vegemite to Fuji film. Feature articles in most major magazines have ensured she’s the most recognised girl in the sport.

What’s behind the image? You could say Niki’s gung-ho at attacking whatever she’s interested in! She’s multi-lingual and speaks English, Swedish, French and Japanese. Currently in her last year of studying graphic design, she’s already had her work published in the super cool New York design mag Neomu. And she’s a former competitive snowboarder.

Ironically, it was while nursing a broken back from snowboarding she discovered her love for mountain biking, but she doesn’t plan on switching back. “I used to think I was invincible,” Niki says. “Now I see people snowboarding over road gaps, stuff I wouldn’t have thought twice about, and it just makes me think I was crazy! Still, I’ve used what I’ve learnt from injuring myself to my advantage. Now I know how to progress further and push myself, yet still stay within my limits.”

There seem to be no limits in her modelling career, not to say she doesn’t cop grief on the odd occasion. She’s rocked up to photo shoots and been greeted with surprise because she’s the real thing. “There’s a whole thing in that industry, when you see someone in a commercial they don’t necessarily do that sport. Usually casting agents have picked out someone that just looks like the stereotype.”

So what about Anna Kournikova who cops backlash for fitting that photogenic stereotype? “She’s not the best (tennis player), but she does have ability. I think a lot of people are just harsh. How many ads would just use some perfect model? It’s a dedicated life, it’s not like all she does is get out there and play a game and then pose for shots. There’s a lot of training and buildup which people don’t see. I mean, people use all kinds of things to get publicity. She’s healthy, why not promote it?”

But stereotypes aside, one thing Niki loves most about mountain biking and sport in general, is the common bond it provides. “You know when you were younger and you saw kids mucking around with a soccer ball? If you wanted to play soccer, you wouldn’t even think twice, you’d just walk over and introduce yourself and play a game. But when you get older, no way would anyone ever walk over to someone they didn’t know. That’s the good thing about sport, it’s like it reduces the barriers again, everyone can just be friends and share something in common. I think sport is pretty true. It brings out the best in people.”

Profile: Carolyn Ridings. Photographers: Todd Warnock and Martin Wielecki. "Future Force Five" - Chick Magazine, April / May 2002 Issue.

InterviewsNiki Gudex