She won the Austrian government’s youth team championship, and is already riding a motorcycle in France – where she was born
A three-times member of Austria’s junior male off-road racing team, Mika Brännström didn’t stand a chance as a teenager. Girls were banned from the national female team, and nowhere in the world could they compete with men.
Yet today, at 19 years old, she is the first female to compete for the country’s national men’s team, and so far has been extremely successful. She won the 2017 Austrian government’s youth team championship. Before that, she’d placed second in her division in 2017. As a pro rider with the Langford Wurtz squad, she went on to win the Pro Classic category, and she was crowned the female champion in Monaco last summer.
Never accepting limitations, Brännström is in an unusual position as she prepares to compete in Australia. For the first time she’s going alone – instead of training alongside 30 men. And she has become the first ever female member of the amateur Team 1000-1 (Team 1000X), among the 20 male riders participating in the third round of the 2018 Off Road Motor Sport World Championship Series.
“I have had some difficulties,” she told the French sports newspaper L’Equipe. “In our school we only have one girl in a gym – one. The only one.” In primary school, she couldn’t even study alongside the boys. “I was still learning how to talk and walk and to walk with a crutch in my left leg,” she said. But she was determined to overcome these obstacles. “I asked my mother if I could fight with the boys,” she said.
And now that she is seriously training, she’s an unlikely trailblazer, and for Brännström this is merely the beginning. “I hope to ride with my [male] teammates soon. Who knows, in five or 10 years I could become one of the legends?” she said.
Brännström grew up on a farm, in the presence of motors. She became interested in cars, and enjoys riding bikes, too. But she confessed: “In all my childhood I wouldn’t even dream of riding a horse. I didn’t even use a bicycle.
“Today I am prepared for any challenges that lie ahead. I’m curious and ready to take the bicycle into the hills where it will be tested against other bikes and left-handers, and compete against men.”