An interview with champion mountain biker Gunn-Rita Dahle

BOUNCING back from motherhood to claim her spot as one of the most respected female mountain bikers in the world is just one of many of Gunn-Rita Dahle's life achievements. In this interview she opens up about her passion for her sport and what motivates her to be the best.


Gunn rita 1


GUNN-RITA Dahle Flesjå is a cross-courntry and marathon mountain biker with an enviable record to many in the sports. Her achievements include Gold in cross-country at the 2004 Olympic Games, six World Championships and six European Championships. She is a multiple World Champion and has won four UC World Cup XC’s in a row.


We were delighted when Gunn-Rita agreed to be interviewed by us and jumped at the chance to ask her about her early life and how her career has progressed.


Her dedication to the sport and to be the best shone through from her answers and on learning about her highs and lows we got her to open up more about her life and what it means to her to succeed even through times of adversity.


What was it like growing up in Norway and how involved were you in sport at a young age?


I grew up on the country side and went to a small school with only 40 pupils. I did a lot of different sports at young age, but more and more running from 14 years old. I played soccer until I was 17 years old and did long distance running until I were about 20 years old. Never on a national level, I was the top local runner, but never anything more than that.


When I started mountain biking at 22 years old it really was the first time I had ever considered cycling.


Who were your early influences and how did they help to give you confidence and motivation to succeed in what were you doing?


My mum and dad were always supportive in everything I did. They were also very active with running, hiking and working hard in their big garden, so I believe I learned from very young age to enjoy using my body in sport and physical outdoors work.


gunn rita 2


You first started biking in 1995 and it wasn’t long before you had your first taste of success. It was two months later that you won the Norwegian Championships and three months after that when you became Nordic Champion in Finland.  What was it about getting on a bike that ignited such a passion in you and what reasons do you put behind your almost instant success?


I liked high speed in all ways and also to use my entire body in a extreme way. Working hard and getting a feeling of ‘living’ because my body was being used and pushed hard, was something I liked and enjoyed.


I had a horse when I grew up, a fast one that always liked to run – it had speed and adrenalin. I did slalom and downhill skiing from I were ten years old, jumping and high speed was the most fun part for me. I did like big motorcycle for some years. Stupid hobby but it was also all about speed and adrenalin.


Mountain biking was speed, adrenalin, pain and use of the entire body. It was easy for me to start loving from the first moment. I tended to reach my goals in what ever I aimed for as kid and a young girl. Hard work, strong will and a determined mind.


Later that year you were introduced to mountain biking and it wasn’t long before you were signed up to a Dutch team.


What were your early experiences of mountain biking like and how did you feel to suddenly be part of a professional team?


Its was of course fun and a playground for me doing sport for the first time on a top level for these first years. Everything went very fast and I never had to time to regret or look back.


What have your biggest victories in road and mountain biking been over the years and which wins have meant the most to you?


I have so many big moments and victories to look back on and it is impossible for me to point out only one or two.

Road was always just training for me and I never had specific goals for the road.


Of course becoming the World Champion for the first time back in Kaprun in 2002 is something very special. Winning the European Championship one month early was also something special because it was my comeback to the sport after being over-trained and totally down for two seasons.


My husband took over all the training and coaching in spring 2001 and we started all over again, on level zero, and together we managed to come back into the sport and first win the European Championship in August 2002 in Zurich, after everyone in the federation at home had given me up.


Winning the Olympic Gold in 2004 will always be something special. Winning the WC overall four years in a row, is also something I’m very proud of.


Coming back as mother and winning the European Championship XC in 2011, will always be stand as something outstanding as well as becoming the World’s Champion MXC in 2013 as a 40-year-old mother, that will never be forgotten.

Yes I could keep going like this. I had a great career that is not over yet!


gunn rita medals 3


Your sport has taken you to many places around the world. Where have you enjoyed the most and what have been your best highlights of your time travelling?


There are so many places that are beautiful to ride a bike in this world. Livigno in Italy is one of our favorites, Boulder in Colorado is another place we love. Riding in the Mountains around Kirtzarts/Kirchberg in Austria is just amazing. Racing a WC in Brasil, Cancun, Australia, South Africa and Hawai has been something special for sure. And for sure lots of nice places in the world are to discover still together with my bike.


What does the next year hold for you and what advice would you give to those inspired by what you do?


Season 2015 looks like an interesting season where we aim high for both championship and WC races. I will even do my first Absa Cape Epic this year and that is an adventure itself.


I think a lot has to do with putting up goals that you really believe in. Hard work is something that is part of it whatever kind of goal you put into life. Find a way to do this hard work that is interesting and enjoyable for you. Easier to succeed for sure and you have more FUN every day.

Reader Comments

Share This Article