Olympic Bound

International BMX star makes Holly Springs her home

Nikita Ducarroz will compete in this summer's olympics for Switzerland in BMX freestyle.

The Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex, tucked away down Green Oaks Parkway, may be off the beaten path in Holly Springs, but it is renowned as one of the top BMX training facilities in the nation.

The indoor/outdoor facility boasts varied terrain: box jumps, a foam pit, ramps, a jump line and plenty more, which caught the attention of female BMX star Nikita Ducarroz, prompting the 24-year-old to leave California and move to Holly Springs so she could train there daily.

Ducarroz is an international athlete, born in France, to Swiss and American parents. Ducarroz grew up spending the school year in California and summers in Geneva, Switzerland. Only five years into her BMX career, she has competed in events in the U.S. and across Europe, and rides this summer for the Swiss Olympic team in Tokyo.

Ducarroz’s event is BMX Park, also called BMX Freestyle, where cyclists perform a sequence of acrobatic tricks on different obstacles — obstacles much like those in the Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex — and are judged on difficulty, creativity and execution. The 2020 Olympic Games (being held this summer after postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic) are the first Olympic games to include BMX Freestyle in the lineup of events.

There are only nine men and nine women competing in the Olympic Games, making BMX Freestyle one of the smallest events at the games.

As she prepares to ride on the biggest international stage in sports, Main & Broad caught up with Ducarroz to discuss moving to Holly Springs and making BMX history.

MB: What initially drew you to Freestyle BMX riding?

ND: When I quit soccer around 13 years old because of severe anxiety, my mom told me I had to do a sport. I needed to find something that I could do at my house and something that didn’t have a team that would depend on me. I had seen some YouTube videos of BMX riding and always loved riding my bike in the woods when we would go camping, so I told my mom I would do BMX and mountain biking. What started a bit as an excuse to get out of playing soccer, ended up becoming my entire life. I immediately fell in love, and after a year or so when I finally met others in the BMX community, I was hooked. The sense of community, feeling of freedom, and creativity were all things that really drew me in and kept me coming back for more day after day.

MB: What keeps you excited about the sport?

ND: The adventures and the challenge. There’s always something different happening. I have friends from all over the world and get to learn and experience different cultures. I’m constantly kept busy either training or trying new things. I’m not the most competitive person (other than with myself), but I really love competitions because of the challenge and the experience around them.

MB: How has your riding changed since moving and training in Holly Springs?

ND: It’s hard to see it yourself, but I have had so many people comment on my progression since moving to Holly Springs. Going from riding 3 days a week with no clear plan, to riding every single day with purpose made such a difference. I also worked closely with a fellow rider who became my coach (Daniel Wedemeijer), and was riding with other Olympic-bound athletes who pushed me everyday. Because all 2020 events were cancelled, I had many uninterrupted months to focus solely on becoming a better rider.

SK8 Park in Cary

MB: How do you feel going into the Olympics?

ND: I don’t know if it’s become real yet — probably a combination of having so many competitions cancelled in 2020, and never having such a huge event for our sport. When I truly pause and think about it, I definitely get really nervous. But I am also just really excited to experience it, and put all my training to the test. I want to do the best run I have ever done, something that makes me super stoked, and hopefully the judges will think it’s worthy of a podium!

MB: What does it mean to be a part of the first Olympic year of the sport?

ND: It feels incredible — to be making history, and also being a part of this path that is showing the younger generation of girls it is possible to ride BMX. It’s not just for the boys. I’m excited to show our sport to a wider audience, and introduce it to more of the world.

MB: What has been the most exciting moment of your career thus far?

ND: Probably a tie between winning the 2018 Vans US Open and signing with Red Bull. The first was just such an incredible atmosphere, contest on the beach (literally) in California, so many good friends all around, and stomping my 540 at the end of the run. It was also a big deal for the women’s side of BMX to be at that event — just an unreal moment.

I think it’s a pretty common dream amongst BMX athletes to become a (Red Bull) athlete. For me it was them, or nothing. The way (Red Bull) supports their athletes, the image of the brand etc, I honestly don’t know if I ever believed it would happen. To put on my silver and blue helmet every morning still feels like the ultimate dream.

Ducarroz trains at the Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex in Holly Springs.

MB: What do you think of Holly Springs?

ND: I really like Holly Springs! Originally coming from a very small town, I enjoy being back in an area that is pretty quiet. I really enjoy Bass Lake, either to go out on the lake in the boats with friends, spend the afternoon fishing, or even take a walk around it on the trails. It’s a nice place to relax and unwind. I like all the nature, and how small of a town it is. It’s the perfect blend of small, while still having everything you need.

Career Highlights:

First place: Simple Session, Estonia

First place: Swiss National Championships, Switzerland
First Place: FISE European Series, France

First place: Vans BMX Pro Cup, California
Second Place: UCI BMX Freestyle, BMX World Cup, France

Second Place: UCI BMX Freestyle, BMX World Cup, Hungary

MB: How does DDASC compare to other facilities where you have trained?

ND: Each place I have trained has been different and had it’s different benefits. At the DDASC, we have the benefit of soft practice ramps called “resi,” as well as a foam pit. In addition, Daniel (Dhers) builds features similar to what we compete on, and they are some of the most challenging set ups I, and a lot of other riders, have ever ridden, so it really keeps us on our toes and ready for when we go compete.

MB: Do you expect to stay in Holly Springs after the Olympics?

ND: I honestly have no idea what the future holds. I did buy a house in Holly Springs, so I plan on staying for a while, but like I mentioned before, BMX brings ever-changing adventures, so only time will tell. For now I really enjoy being here.

Watch Nikita Ducarroz’s Olympic runs at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo on Sat, July 31 and Sun, Aug 1. Olympic coverage will be available on NBC and nbcolympics.com.

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