Queenstown downhill mountain biker Jess Blewitt’s capped an excellent second year on the World Cup circuit by becoming a Red Bull-sponsored athlete.
Elite Kiwi rider Brook Macdonald presented her with a coveted Red Bull helmet at Crankworx in Rotorua recently.
‘‘It was a little bit unexpected but it’s super-exciting,’’ the 20-year-old says.
‘‘It’s kind of what everyone’s hoping for as an athlete, all the support you get from them is pretty massive.’’
Blewitt’s the third ex-Wakatipu High student to become a Red Bull athlete, following alpine ski racer Alice Robinson, who was a year ahead of her, and her year-group contemporary, snowboarder Cool Wakushima.
This year she had three podiums after coming fourth in Val di Sole, Italy, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, and Vallnord, Andorra — the top five podium in downhill racing.
‘‘I can’t complain about that, especially after my in jury last year,’’ she says, referring to an horrific crash in her last World Cup race of the season in the United States — her injuries included a broken collarbone and cracked ribs.
Blewitt then broke her opposite collarbone in this year’s first World Cup race in Fort William, Scotland.
‘‘It definitely wasn’t an easy start to the year but it ended up being a good one’’ — she finished seventh overall despite missing three races.
The GT Factory Racing team member also became the first female to ride the infamous Red Bull Hardline event in Wales, a brutal part-downhill, part-freeride track in Wales.
Despite being under no pressure to compete, she says ‘‘I ended up ticking off a heap of features’’.
Towards the end she reinjured the collarbone she broke last year and is now rehabbing back in Queenstown.
She’s already excited, though, about next season, which she’ll start by defending the national title she’s won the past two years.