Riding through the highs and lows

Riding through the highs and lows

Riding through the highs and lows

Hurtling down a mountain doesn’t come without risks, as JCU student and Downhill Mountain Bike competitor Katie Lawlor found out. Despite her injuries, Katie’s passion for the sport has not waned. She might be temporarily sidelined, but that won’t stop her from getting back on track and tackling those mountains.

Katie Lawlor might race down mountains for her sport, but when it comes to life she has her feet firmly planted on solid ground. This attitude keeps Katie going through the ecstatic highs and crushing lows of the sport. The 23-year-old was due to compete at the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships when she crashed during a practice run. Katie broke her hand and collarbone, as well as badly bruising a hip. While she couldn’t compete, her heart was still in the championships and she cheered on her teammates.

Katie has travelled an unusual road to become a rising star on the downhill mountain bike racing circuit. At the age of 16, a car hit Katie while she was riding her bike and she broke her leg.

“It was a really bad point in my life,” Katie says. “I couldn’t do sport and I wasn’t really happy. I wasn’t fit and healthy. I was sad – I just wasn’t me.”

A few years after the accident, Katie got back into sport. She borrowed a bike from a friend and he joked that she would soon be competing in a world cup. On her 21st birthday, she got her first bike. Katie had only been riding a year when she competed at the State Championships and won the event.

“I feel like I started living when I started riding,” she says. “Before that, I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I was too worried about what other people thought of me. I still have insecurities, like with clothes. But when I’m in my racing kit, this is what I want to do. I know I have a skill and I can do it and I’m good at what I do.”

Injury might have temporarily sidelined Katie Lawlor, but she's already looking forward to competing again. Image: Supplied

Katie juggles racing and training with university. She started studying a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science at JCU in 2014. A passion to learn more inspired her to enrol in a dual degree of Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science – Bachelor of Psychological Science in 2015. Katie finds what she learns in class is useful for when she’s on the track.

“I do apply a lot of what I learn in Sports and Exercise and Psychology to myself,” she says. “I have this thing: hesitate and you die. I teach myself to psychologically feel good because I know if I hesitate I will die. I like to face my fears.”

The gutsy competitor is committed to working hard over the next few years. Even on the days when she does feel down, she knows that all the training can pay off in a single moment.

“Some days I’ll come out here and I will feel terrible then I’ll do something good and I will feel absolutely overwhelmed with confidence,” she says. “I know it will take a couple of years before I’m on the same level as the big girls. I’m all about achieving goals and doing the best I can. One day, I hope to get selected for a team. Hopefully after that I can be a sports psychologist. I’d love to motivate people.”

If you want to make a positive difference in your community, find out more about the Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science – Bachelor of Psychological Science.

Published 10 May 2019