Competitive sport is an exciting arena. Every so often a fresh and exciting, raw and disuptive talent emerges to shake the field up, and herald the arrival of a new crop of competitors vying for the top spot. Enter Tahnée Seagrave, next up in the series of WHY I interviews delving into the minds, motivations and passions of a slew of diverse, talented, and highly inspiring women. Downhill mountain bike racing could be fairly new to many of you, and with the first thing coming to mind normally being that this is one GNARLY sport, I was interested to chat to 21 year old Tahnée about her life in this adrenaline-charged world. Kick back for a read with this progressive athlete, a young woman with a determination and focus of ferocity, balanced with a super approachable outlook that we can all relate to - heck, we all sometimes just need to just need to whack on the trackie bums and chill out on the sofa for days, right Tahnée? ;)
21 year old downhill mountain bike rider Tahnée Seagrave, is, what some of us might describe, as “nails”. If you’ve ever seen her in action during a competition or on video, the UK born, Wales-based rider’s raw talent has seen her demolish courses, be crowned the Junior World Champion and a regular face on the world-circuit podium. As Tahnéeattests, downhill racing definitely isn’t for the faint hearted. Hurling yourself down a mountain on a bike at high speed, dealing with jumps, sharp corners, rocks, roots, branches, trees and more makes for one of the most adrenaline-surging action sports out there, with, obviously, a high risk-rate of crashes, and perhaps injury. Definitely not for the faint hearted then. But for Tahnée, seeing her describe when she first started riding and how her passion was ignited at an early age at her family home at the time in Les Gets, France (a mountain biker’s mecca) it’s clear she loves this wild and challenging sport, that it gives her so much enjoyment and happiness, as well as a thrilling challenge to succeed. Having been crowned the Junior World Champion in 2013 in Pietermaritzburg, I ask Tahnée what helps to continue to motivate her to up that title to World Champion, as she is now competing on the senior, world-circuit stage, and making quite a mark.
“I guess it's my thrill of giving my all, all the time, in everything I do, so I think tht really helps, the drive…”.
She has also helped to bring a more accessible, feminine and human side to the truthfully, male-dominated sport of downhill racing. But hey , that is OK as she says, it isn’t a sport that’s for everyone because it IS “SO extreme”. Rather than show or suggest that there are any extra pressures on her as a female athlete, Tahnée believes that actually
“If anything I like to push it forward and show girls that it's absolutely fine and that it's not a a boys sport. There’s no such thing as a “male sport”.
Self-admitting to be a “girly-girl”, which she “loves”, it provides an awesome constrast with battle-ready Tahnée on the world circuit, destroying the course and showing incredible levels iof strength, determination and talent in a quite frankly near-terrifying sport. “It gives me a boost, I love being such a girly girl and then being like yeah I do that! To boys especially and it always intimidates them so it's quite funny”.
Following her racing and behind the scenes action on her Instagram account, it is clear she is a dedicated athlete, investing time into her progression through training, to reach her goal of being the World Champion.
“The challenges in the gym are as good as the challenges on the bike, to feel the improvements is just a good a feeling.”
Taking some time out to recover after a few crashes on a busy season last year, it feels like even at her young age, Tahnée's maturaity in understanding when the body just sometimes says “hey, you know what? I need a rest right now, time to chill” is apparent, something some of us (ahemmmm…totally not myself included…ok yes me) who when we are older find hard to do.
“It happened this year, I crashed race after race and my body was just getting worse and worse. I felt myself crumpling over like a little old lady race after race, it gets so emotional. I honestly, don’t think I had any motivation towards the end which is why my results dropped…I got to a point where I was thinking god it isn’t worth it. The body is like your most precious thing, you want to be fit and you’ve got to be fit for races…I took a month off, of nothing, (I) didn’t touch my bike, I didn’t see my bike, I didn’t want to talk about my bike. It literally got to the point where if someone brought up bikes I would have to walk out the room. If anyone talked about...Rache (Rachel Atherton, the dominant world Champion)…or her win, as much as I admire her…at the time I was so emotionally drained. So yeah I think for me it's more time. As soon as I have time to my self, and don’t touch a bike, I start to miss it…I miss the sport, and the competition…”.
Ah yes, Rachel Atherton, the incredible force and dominant multi-world champion. One of the trio of the Atherton Racing family (brothers Dan and Gee), Tahnée’s greatest inspiration, and now, at this point, her biggest compeititon and hurdle to graduating from Junior to World Champion. An indominable and highly progressive athlete, Rachel Atherton has been crowned Downhill World Champion no less than 4 times and been nominated for the Laureus World Sports Award for Action Sportsperson of the Year. An athlete of precocious talent, who, now, has Tahnée Seagrave hot on her heels. She clearly is a huge inspiration to Tahnée, who credits the fact that
“You're not going to be a winner if you don't know what you want…She has just consistently won everything. She can win on a bad day, and I think that’s what is so inspiring. I want to be able to have a bad day and still win”.
Tahnée clearly has a goal set in her sights, and after some time out from the circuit, has taken time to rest, reflect, grow stronger, and ready for action.
“I want to dominate... I don’t want to just get one win... I want to consistently win”.
With the talent pool of challengers to the illustrious Rachel Atherton a field that Tahnée has quickly progressed through, Tahnée despite her super-chilled demeanour and friendly attitude obviously is feeling the drive and has competitive motivation in abundance for her next stab at the title.
“I think that’s where my competitivenes comes from. I don't like losing, but more importantly, I don’t like underachieving by what I think I can do. For me its all in my head, its nothing to do with anyone else.”
It’s awesome to hear that when asked about what race in her career has meant the most to her, it is her fundraising work with the brilliant Coppa-Feel Charity that stands out. Teaming up with the charity during a World Cup event, Tahnée and Coppa Feel created a limited edition bag, kit and helmet that she raced off, later raffling it, and the bike, towards the charity. Raising £10,000 for the charity was “ really emotional…and that was my best World Cup race to date. I got my first second place there so it was so hetic and so emotional, and the result wasn’t in my mind at all so to get second on top of all that was amazing.”
With such drive, determination, genuine positivity and raw talent, it’s clear Tahnée has been on an upward trajectory that is reflecting her hard work ethic and love of her sport.
"I did get a lot of abuse when I was younger, saying I had all the gear and no idea, but I just kept to my gut feeling. I loved the sport, I didn’t care what people thought, and if you love it and have passion for it and are driven there's no reason you cant do it".
Surpassing any hurdles coming her way, it’s clearly going to be an exciting future for Tahnée Seagrave.
With thanks to Tahnée and Richard King at Iconic Agency
Stay tuned, next up in WHY I, I speak to the incredible Jamie Anderson. The reigning Olympic Gold Champion in Snowboard slopesyle, a multiple X Games Gold Medalist, Dew Tour winner, World Snowboard Tour champion, the list quite frankly, is endless with the Tahoe-native's accolades over her career. Perhaps more so is her absolutely infectious positivity and down-to-earth, humble spirit, which exudes stoke and happiness. Dropping in two weeks, do not miss this!