THE importance of a strong mind is sometimes overlooked in sport, but West Devon mountain biker Maya Atkinson insists she would not have had such an unforgettable 2016 without becoming mentally formidable.
The 16-year-old won bronze in the British Downhill series, where she competed against older and more experienced riders, and now intends to build on that heading into the new season.
Maya, who lives in Crapstone, says she used to struggle to show her best form but now has her eyes on a golden 2017 – with the Junior National Championships on the horizon.
She has already plotted her season out, and exactly what she needs to do in order to reach her goals.
“Mentally I have improved massively in the last year. Beforehand I remember sometimes struggling at the crunch time of competitions because my head was all over the place,’ she said.
’Now I want to really kick on and do well in the World Cups and the National Championships. I need to improve my strength training because what I do requires a lot of physical effort.
’My fitness also needs to improve, mainly because the tracks are getting longer now that I am getting older so I need to be able to cope with them.
’I started my AS Levels in September in maths, physics and chemistry so it is quite tough. I have got by so far and I really like the engineering side of things – it means I can fix the bike myself!’
Atkinson is also part of the SSE Next Generation Programme, which gives support to 100 of the best up and coming young British athletes from a variety of sports on their way to the top.
And the Devon biker admits that, although it was a golden year, she is under no illusions over the size of the task she has in front of her as she continues to work her way up to the top of the sport.
“The last year has been very good and I think I really made a step up. I competed in a few of the national competitions and came third overall in the British Downhill series,” she added.
“Getting that bronze was huge. I came fifth on the day and third overall and I was delighted with that because I was competing with a lot of older riders.
’Now I get to race in Junior World Cups next season, which I am really looking forward to. It all starts in April time so I have had some downtime and now I am back at it, getting ready.
’I have a couple of small competitions lined up before then and that will be valuable as I need to get better over certain obstacles and jumps – it is all going to get bigger and harder from now.”
SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen
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