Learn how Sydney Olson hopes to inspire a generation of freerunners
The former gymnast hopes she can help inspire more women to take up the booming sport when she lines up at the 2019 edition of Red Bull Art of Motion in Italy on Saturday.
Red Bull Art of Motion returns to our screens after a two-year break with a tricky new course awaiting the global athletes on the rooftops of the southern Italian city of Matera.
American Sydney Olson, who combines sponsored freerunning with coaching and stunt work, is one of six female athletes bidding for the coveted title. You can see her in action in the video above.
The 26-year-old has been training in the discipline for nearly nine years now and is aiming to win for the first time after finishing runner-up in Santorini behind Luxembourg's Lynn Jung three years ago.
Olson is known for throwing down really hard tricks and connecting them seamlessly, so will be looking to show off her unique style in the European Capital of Culture for 2019.
She competes alongside Aleksandra Shevchenko, Lilou Ruel, Silke Sollfrank, Hazal Nehir and Camila Stefaniu in the women’s field with reigning champion Alexander Titarenko of Ukraine leading a strong men's event that features a fascinating collection of fresh worldwide talent.
We caught up Olson before the action got underway:
How did you get into freerunning in the first place?
I was a gymnast and, while I was having a lesson, I saw some boys practising freerunning and I decided immediately to try it. I got injured my first time, but I decided not to give up and from that moment this sport has been my life for the last nine years.
Are injuries a kind of occupational hazard for freerunners? How do you recover?
I try to do all that I can to avoid injuries by eating well, sleeping enough, having preventative training and being consistent using progression. If I do get injured, I always take the right amount of time to recover with a positive mindset.
Can you tell us a little about your training regime for freerunning? What are the core muscles that you have to strengthen?
I do a lot of cross-training, because this is an entire body sport. I do four days of weights, then also run to be explosive in jumping and try some landings from different heights to have my body strengthen and ready to fall. I also do boxing for fun.
Does it take a special personality to do this?
I think that this is a place for everybody, but to progress, become a professional athlete and hopefully a winner, you need a little bit of extra courage to push the limits. There are people who really worked insanely hard to get here at Red Bull Art of Motion.
Did you do any specific training for Red Bull Art of Motion? What is Matera like?
Matera is a super-interesting place with a great history. I've never been in a place like it. The course feels really impressive, so I need to be very smart and precise by having good lines and flips. I'm very excited, but also nervous because I must be very focused in order to push the limits.
Are more and more female athletes taking up freerunning? Are there any extra challenges you have had to overcome as a female athlete?
I would like to see more women taking up freerunning and competing. To help this sport, we need more women involved. I see a lot of girls trying it, but then not going on. I would love to be a source of inspiration for other women.