Alive and Kicking


Our leading female athletes discuss the drive and determination needed to succeed.

If there’s one thing that binds these remarkable women together, apart from being professional athletes, it’s the lure of gold at the Olympic Games. Some, such as Lauren Burns and Alisa Camplin, have reached that height and snatched victory. Others, such as Jane Saville, got so close it was almost within her reach. Younger stars, such as Leisel Jones, are still on their way, chasing a dream of podium glory. But they are already winners; talented and dedicated to their sport, role models pursuing their dreams. And that’s worth celebrating.

After joining the sport of mountain biking just three years ago, Niki Gudex is already ranked as the number two female downhill rider in Australia. In 2001, she represented Australia at the World Championships. As cross country riding is an Olympic sport, she's focusing on representing Australia in 2004 in Athens.

You started out as a competitive snowboarder. How did you get into mountain biking? I started because of an injury from snowboarding. I was on a trampoline and was practising flips when I fractured my T4 and T5 vertebrae. Everyone was going, ‘oh my god we'll call an ambulance’ and I was like ‘it’s fine just leave me alone and I’ll get up soon’. And then I realised a bit later on I couldn’t move. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been and probably sounds worse than it was, but for me it was a sort of turning point. I moved to Jindabyne but I was quite tentative on the snowboard. One day I ended up getting on a bike to watch some friends and I took a short cut back through the bush and had to make my own track and it was so much fun. I got back to the house and was telling someone about it and that’s when I found out there was actually a sport called mountain biking.

What do you love about the sport? It’s just fun and you are in control. It feels natural to me and once you are on a bike you’re not thinking about tomorrow or the next day. You are right there in the moment and it’s a good place to be. Each day I can train harder, I can ride something more technical, you are constantly able to fulfil the desire to improve.

What have you learnt from your sport? I think the sport has given me more confidence. It’s given me a better insight into who I am as well, because when you are out riding, you really get a chance to examine yourself and see who you are and where your strengths are and sometimes you can really surprise yourself. My best training rides happen when it’s hailing or something like that, I love stuff like that.

Is winning everything? My favourite results have been when I did really well but didn’t necessarily come first. It’s not necessary results driven but it’s rare that I am not happy with what I have done because I just try to do the best I can. At some point you have to realise there’s no point worrying that you could have done better, you just have to keep looking ahead and moving forward.


Profile: Margaret Merten. Photographed by: Richard Bailey. "Alive and Kicking" Vogue Australia Magazine, January 2003 Issue.

InterviewsNiki Gudex