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An extreme sport like BMX (Bicycle Motocross) may not be the first thing that comes to mind to help overcome a mental health condition. However, that is precisely what enabled Nikita Ducarroz to fight her fears.
As a child, Ducarroz spent every spare moment on the soccer field. But at 13, the talented athlete began to suffer from severe anxiety attacks that made it hard for her to leave home. Ducarroz quit playing soccer. She also began attending high school online.
A BMX video on YouTube inspired the then-14-year-old to try the extreme sport. She saved up for a bike and began practicing tricks in her driveway. Soon, she was able to build up enough confidence to ride at the local skate park. By 2016, Ducarroz was ready to ride competitively, and she has not looked back since.
"The bike made me get out of the house, go to the skate park, and eventually get on a plane," said Ducarroz. "It pushed me and gave me a reason to overcome all my fears."
The 26-year-old is now one of the world's best female BMX freestylers. Her list of accolades includes a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a gold medal at the 2021 European Championships, and a silver medal at the 2021 UCI World Championships. The talented athlete also clinched a silver medal at the recently held 2022 UCI World Championships in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Ducarroz now has her eyes set on the 2024 Paris Olympics. She says, "My goal in Paris is another medal, and I know with the right mindset and training, I can get that done."
Though she still suffers occasional panic attacks, Ducarroz now knows how to manage them. To help others with mental health conditions, Ducarroz has started an Instagram page called MindTricks. It provides a safe space for athletes and others to discuss their fears.
"MindTricks started because of my own posts that I was making on Instagram about mental health," she explained. "And I thought why don't we create something where others can do the same, a central spot where everyone can read about these stories and also feel inspired to share their own stories."
Resources: Rasolution.com, nikitaducarroz.com