Woman of the Week
What it’s like to be an Olympic-medal-winning female BMX biker
-Julie Ryan Evans
From riding her bike around her childhood neighborhood to riding it in the 2008 Olympics and bringing home a bronze medal in BMX racing, Jill Kintner has made some pretty impressive tracks. But the terrain has been anything but smooth. Along the way she has overcome some pretty treacherous hurdles in her life, including physical injuries and the loss of her biggest supporter – her father. But through it all she has kept on pedaling and pushing herself to greater levels.
Betty recently caught up with Jill to find out what it’s like to ride your bike to such victory.
What’s it like being a woman in such a male-dominated sport?
It has its pros and cons, but it is nice to always have people to learn from and who push me.
How old were you when you got involved in biking and how did you become interested in it?
My mom started me on a bike when I was just 2. Having an older brother already riding jumpstarted the process, obviously, but growing up in a neighborhood of kids – that was just what we did. Riding bikes was our freedom, and adventures would fill most days.
Are there things you have had to give up in your pursuit of excellence in the sport?
Of course! Any time there are too many distractions it is really tough to focus. It wasn’t until I really narrowed down what I wanted that I took my riding to the next level. Then there was a new set of sacrifices – moving away, not seeing friends, the nomadic lifestyle etc. But every choice was worth it for me to be the best I could be.
Did you grow up dreaming of being an Olympic Champion?
No, because it (BMX) wasn’t an Olympic sport till 2008. I grew up with no idea that I would ever get to go to the Olympics, I just loved to ride bikes.
What was being in the Olympics and winning a bronze medal like?
Winning a medal was like validation for all the effort I put in. It felt really good to give something back to my country and to everyone who supported me to accomplish this. Immediately after I crossed the finish line I started screaming and celebrating. It was a moment like no other that couldn’t be contained.
What hurdles did you face in getting there?
This year was emotional, so many ups and downs. I was injured twice, had a knee surgery, but still need another big one, made Olympic qualification by one point after missing so many rounds, lost my father and biggest supporter two years ago, moved away from my family to train, managed a long-distance relationship and switched sports (from mountaincross), which was a complete lifestyle change!! I didn’t wear my mountain bike world champion jersey once this year because of the Olympic dream. In the end it is all this adversity that made my experience mean so much for me.
What are your future plans?
To make a difference; we will see how it unfolds, but I would like to do some development for the kids, and race healthy again after I fix my knee – (ACL reconstruction surgery this October).
1. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Didn’t know, was too busy being 10 to worry about it.
2. What type of kids did you hang out with in high school?
Kids in my art classes, skateboarders, snowboarders, girls on my soccer team, honors students, etc. I didn’t discriminate, got along with everyone.
3. What woman from the past do you most identify with?
That’s a tough question. Couldn’t say just one, so many women have impacted my life for different reasons – family and friends mostly.
4. What’s your workout?
Right now I don’t HAVE to do anything!! Mission complete for the time being. My mountain bike was locked away for awhile, so it will be ridden as much as I possibly can this month.
5. Cat or dog?
I would love to have a dog!!! It’s hard when you travel as much as we do; it wouldn’t be fair to a pup.
6. What do you do when you want to completely tune out?
Go to the bookstore, have a coffee, and read magazines or design books.
7. What book is sitting on your shelf, waiting to be read?
Miracle in the Andes
8. If you could have dinner with any two people, whom would you choose?
I’m not sure.
9. What is the one thing you want or do not want the next generation of girls to encounter?
I’d like it to be easier for girls to get sponsors and not have to struggle so much to break through.
10. If there were one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?
I’d probably read way more books.