Nikita Ducarroz
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BMX Athlete Nikita Ducarroz Credits BMX and Her Bike for Saving Her Life

The Spotlight: BMX Bronze Medalist Nikita Ducarroz launches platform to help normalize conversations around mental health.
By Dorian Hill
9 min readPublished on
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Nikita Ducarroz

Already one of the top women in Freestyle BMX, …

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With World Mental Health Day on Sunday, October 10, this edition of The Spotlight focuses on 2021 Tokyo Summer Games BMX Freestyle bronze medalist Nikita Ducarroz and her work with Mind Tricks (@m1ndtricks), a platform that allows athletes in the action sports world (and beyond) to share their struggles with mental health.
Mind Tricks was created by Nikita and her friend Patrick Kelly in effort to address the lack of conversation around mental health in the action sports world. Through posts and personal stories on their new Instagram page (@m1ndtricks), they hope to reach those in need and inspire more to speak out and reduce the stigma.
Imagine being a teenager going through anxiety issues so severe that you don’t even want to leave your home. Then one day you’re scrolling on YouTube and stumble upon a video that offers you a way out. A literal vehicle to help you cope. And then you ride that vehicle not only out of your house but all the way onto the global sports stage. This is the story of Nikita Ducarroz.
Nikita Ducarroz
Nikita Ducarroz
Born to a Swiss father and an American mother, Nikita enjoyed dual nationality growing up in Northern California, and spending her summers in Geneva, Switzerland with her grandparents. At the age of thirteen, Nikita began suffering from serious anxiety attacks that left her feeling isolated in her own home. It wasn’t until she found a BMX video on YouTube that she began to break free of that isolation. It began with saving up for a bike and practicing in her driveway. Day after day, trick after trick the love for the sport became stronger and stronger leading her to do something that scared her, and that was taking the leap to ride her bike at the local public skatepark. From that decision, Nikita’s career in BMX began.
Nikita continued to work hard and develop her skills and she began to truly see a future for herself in the sport. It didn’t take her long to start to win competitions – first on the local level then national and eventually onto the world stage. She credits BMX for saving her life. “The bike is what got me out of the house and to go to the skate park and then to eventually get on an airplane. So that's always been the thing that's kept me going and given me a reason to push through all those fears.”
The bike is what got me out of the house and to go to the skate park and then to eventually get on an airplane. So that's always been the thing that's kept me going and given me a reason to push through all those fears.
As Nikita’s talents progressed, she soon realized she needed to hone her skills even further to be among the elite riders in the world. In early 2020 Nikita took a two-week training trip to the Daniel Dares Action Sports Complex in Holly, North Carolina. That experience led Nikita to move to North Caroline full-time to train with the best riders in the world. “We could still ride the park, it was closed to the public but all seven of us riders basically just formed a bubble. And we were able to keep training throughout all of that. So that was really cool.”
The move to North Carolina to train with some of the world's best riders proved to pay off big time when Nikita, riding for Team Switzerland, grabbed the bronze medal in the debut of BMX Freestyle in the Tokyo Olympics this past summer. A true feat for someone that just started riding in 2010.
When asked how she deals with her mental health during big events and how she felt about her name being cemented in Olympic history in the debut of her sport Nikita replied, “It's pretty insane. I don't know if it will ever really hit me. It's still kind of just feels like it went by really fast. It almost feels like it just wasn't real. Like it didn't actually happen. But it was sick, especially having so many people in different countries be able to watch the sport. And in Switzerland people that had no idea about BMX have come up to me and said that they had watched it for the first time because of the Olympics. And they were super stoked about it. It's really cool to see that we made such an impact and it was so much bigger than just us. It really reached a whole new group of people. As for my mental health before big competitions, well the funny thing is I definitely freak out before competitions and I usually wish that I was at home right about the time I'm going to drop in. It doesn’t matter the size of the competition, in Tokyo I had the same amount of nerves as I did in a much smaller competition in Pennsylvania about a month prior to the games.”
Kate Courtney, Nikita Ducarroz and Hannah Bergemann at a Mind Tricks event
Kate Courtney, Nikita Ducarroz and Hannah Bergemann at a Mind Tricks event

How did Mind Tricks come about?

Mind Tricks came about from posts that I had made about my struggles with mental health. A friend came to me and asked if I knew of any pages or websites or anything in sports that were highlighting that sort of thing and I didn't really know of any at the time so we had the idea to create this page where we could share stories from ourselves and other pro riders, and pretty much any athlete that wanted to share and just kind of get the conversation going. So we started posting the pros’ stories to show their fans that they are also dealing with mental health issues. And we just wanted to normalize the conversation around mental health. It's geared towards athletes, and we've definitely focused more on the action sports side of things. But it's sort of open-ended for now because we want it to morph into whatever it's going to morph into.

As a co-founder of Mind Tricks, how else are you involved in the platform? Do you recruit other athletes to share stories on your platform?

I definitely try to keep an eye on the different athletes' pages that I follow to see if they've spoken out about their mental health and then I reach out and see if they want to also share on our page.

Why are you so passionate about building this platform?

I think just because of how much it helps me to talk about mental health. And then to also see and meet other people that are dealing with the same thing. Because it's a topic that we don't want to talk about. So anything I could do to make it easier for me and for other people, is something worth doing and I think it’s also cool to be able to combine that with BMX.
Nikita and friends at Mind Tricks in event Malibu, California
Nikita and friends at Mind Tricks in event Malibu, California

Do you think sharing your story online made it easier for others in the action sports world to share their stories on the Mind Tricks platform?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I've had people say that before. And I think the more people that have shared on the platform, it's reached people that are fans of them, or friends of theirs, and kind of encouraged them to share. So it's just like a domino effect reaching more and more people.

Would you consider yourself an ambassador for mental health in action sports?

Yes definitely! I think there's not a lot of people talking about it yet. And I think anyone that follows me definitely has heard me talk about it. So I try not to do it too much to where it's annoying, but I think people are aware and definitely are supportive of it. Hopefully, it encourages more people to speak out.
Hannah Bergemann, Nikita Ducarroz and Izzi Gomez
Hannah Bergemann, Nikita Ducarroz and Izzi Gomez

Would you say that 'celebrating small wins to overcome big obstacles' describes your journey in life thus far?

Absolutely! That's pretty much been my whole life. When I got to the point of being able to go to big contests and stuff, if I got on the podium, that was kind of what people would see as the big victory. But what people didn't see was the fact that I had gotten on an airplane to go to that contest. Which was nearly impossible for me. So that’s what I was celebrating, that was the real win for me. It's just celebrating all the little things that lead up to that big victory because there's so much more that goes into it than that one moment that you see.

Do you have future plans or goals that you'd like to achieve with Mind Tricks?

We want to do some live events where we have conversations with other athletes and people can tune in and ask questions. If we end up doing events it’d be cool to combine mental health with BMX and share both of those together, like get people on bikes and then also talk about mental health and stuff, sharing both of those passions at the same time. We also did a t-shirt collaboration with a friend which we've done like three different drops and they just keep selling out. One of those drops was our Mental Health Matters shirts. People are super stoked on them, so we want to definitely do more apparel in the future. We also want to do different collaborations with other BMX companies as well. I know we're gonna do some stuff with Red Bull, some events and maybe some clinics. So Mind Tricks doesn't have an official title for what it is yet, but for right now it’s a place to share stories and encourage more conversations around mental health. And we just want to make it even bigger in the future.
The Spotlight is a series of articles and content that gives Red Bull ambassadors the opportunity to spotlight organizations, businesses, community groups and/or individual people raising awareness and driving progression in mental health, environmentalism, and/or diversity & inclusion.
Nikita and friends celebrate a day well-spent discussing mental health
Nikita and friends celebrate a day well-spent discussing mental health

ABOUT MIND TRICKS

Mind Tricks is a platform created to encourage people to share their mental health stories, and find inspiration in other’s stories, knowing they are not alone in dealing with the struggles. The platform is intended to get the conversation started, reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and continue to show that we are all in this together.
Get involved:
  • Follow on Instagram @m1ndtricks
  • Share! This could include sharing your own story on the Mind Tricks platform or sharing the page with a friend who you think it might help. It’s open to everyone! Written posts, Instagram live conversations, however you feel inspired to share your story.

ABOUT THE SPOTLIGHT

The Spotlight is a series of articles and content that gives Red Bull ambassadors the opportunity to spotlight organizations, businesses, community groups and/or individual people raising awareness and driving progression in mental health, environmentalism, and/or diversity & inclusion.
Part of this story

Nikita Ducarroz

Already one of the top women in Freestyle BMX, …

United StatesUnited States
View Profile