She competes downhill, but junior Queenstown mountain biker Jess Blewitt’s career is very much taking an uphill trajectory.
The 17-year-old’s just cleaned up the national downhill under-19 series for the second season running, and also took out the national and Oceania U19 titles in Dunedin.
Now the Year 13 Wakatipu High student, who wants to follow in the tracks of Queenstown world junior champion Scarlett Hagen, will be competing overseas this year for the first time.
She’ll race junior World Cups in Slovenia and Croatia, in May, then, in September, the world juniors in Austria and World Cups in Italy and France.
Jess is ambitiously aiming for top-three World Cup finishes “and it would be nice to be world champion as well”.
In New Zealand, she’s out on her own in a sport that presently attracts very few girls – in fact, in her last race in Auckland she was the only entrant.
Part of it, she admits, could be that girls think the sport’s too scary – and considering you’re blatting down a steep, gnarly hill at 60 to 80kmh, perhaps that’s understandable.
“I like the thrill/speed side of it, I’m kind of an adrenalin junkie.”
She puts a lot of her success down to good coaching and gym training.
She’s also learnt a lot from her former ski racing career.
Though formerly based in Mount Maunganui, she came down for about seven years to train and race with the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team, and also had a season freestyle skiing.
It means, for example, that she’s not scared of hitting jumps when on her bike.
And from ski racing she’s also learnt how to control her nerves at the start of a run.
From next season, Jess will be competing in the elite category, however she won’t feel out of place – at the Oceanias this season, she was just 0.2 seconds slower than the elite winner.