Photos: Sevisual, Rob Alton, Alex Lang Photo..
Great reaction to my Part 1 Flatmattersonline Interview with the first Women’s UCI World Champion in Flatland, Irina Sadovnik. I know I have said it before, the interviews are a lot of work, and probably what I enjoy producing the most, and this two part interview with Irina was no different. But it has been a whole lot of fun getting to know her, over the last year or so, and I felt the whole flatland community needed to hear her story. Thank you for all the positive feedback from Part 1 last Friday…. Let’s get into Part 2, it’s a good one and well worth a read whilst your on lockdown….
Let’s kick off Part 2 Irina…Who supports your riding?
I am super happy, deeply thankful and proud to roll for fourpegsbmx, Kärtnen-Sport/KELAG, VansVienna, epic.wear-jewerly, Emmericheyewear/ Jathletics and Yamaha Motor Austria. It’s not “just” support what I get here; it totally feels like being part of a family. Thanks to all of you for your help in so many ways, to cheer for and believe in me and for your friendship.
What’s your advice for any new comers into flatland?
Get in touch with other riders (either personally or via social media) and try to get some advices for your first steps on your bike. It’s great to see how fast the newcomers in the BMX academies progress, but unfortunately these schools are still rare. But don’t worry, even if you are by yourself, it’s definitely possible to learn how to ride Flatland. Nowadays, there are also a lot of “how to” videos available, which make the first steps a lot easier as well.
In general, I can just give the advice to enjoy being on your bike no matter what tricks you are doing, have fun and practice yourself in patience. The feeling when you pull your first tricks is stunning and it’s totally worth the time and effort you invest.
Who is helping you with riding, or are you self taught?
Now, my Coaches Sebastian and Martti are helping me a lot with my riding, with working on my consistency level and creating new combos. When I started riding BMX, I had a boyfriend who was riding Flatland already on a really good level. So in the beginning he gave me a lot of great advices for my first tricks. When I moved to Vienna, I connected with some other riders as well (like Sebastian Grubinger, Markus Redlberger, Michael Sommer and Gernot Ibounig), which was really helpful in regard of further improving my skills. And for sure I also learned some tricks just by myself; but in general, I am super blessed that I was always surrounded by experienced BMX riders that helped me a lot to gain more knowledge about Flatland.
Tell me about riding in Vienna?
Vienna has a small but nice BMX Flatland scene comprising like 8 to 10 people. It’s always great to meet up, have fun and ride together. As our spot the “Heldenplatz” is the place to be in Vienna in regard of riding Flatland, it can happen that we all meet there on a sunny weekend and then, even this huge spot gets crowded. I love those days when we all hang out together.
There are also times when some people aren’t so motivated especially during winter (except Sebastian Grubinger – he is always on fire). This is for sure also due to the fact that we don’t have a proper winter spot in Vienna and we either ride outside in the cold or escape to garages. In general, Vienna is great for riding with an amazing team spirit within the scene. All the riders who join Sebastian’s Vienna Jam or the events organized by VansVienna and fourpegsbmx each year also reflect the fact that Vienna is worth a visit.
Your riding spot is legendary, what’s your feeling on it? Why is it so special?
Oh yes, we are indeed blessed with a legendary location called “Heldenplatz” encircled by historical buildings in the heart of Vienna.
Our spot is really big and partially surrounded by a beautiful purple and golden fence. Some people need to get used to the rough concrete though but everybody likes it. For me it’s the perfect spot, located between my work and flat and I love to spend time there and ride. Since 2 years there is even an outdoor bar with music, palm trees and good drinks right next to it, which creates a really nice atmosphere. A lot of tourists pass by and watch us riding or people would just hang out there or in one of the adjacent parks and enjoy their lives as we do.
You recently got a new bike, Heresy? Sebastian your other coach will be happy.
Yes, I got my new Heresy frame from Fourpegsbmx a few days before the BMX Worlds in Cologne last summer. First I was not quite sure if I should change my setup so shortly before the contest but when I held it in my hands, I couldn’t resist. I am totally in love with this bike and it is by far the most beautiful I have ever had. I am very thankful that Attila from fourpegsbmx recommended me that frame as it perfectly fits my riding style. He really knows a lot about BMX parts and was also so nice to help me getting my crank out of my old frame and to reinstall it. OMG, that was a pain in the ass. Without Attila’s help, I would still work on it.
For sure Coach Sebastian likes that I am riding a Heresy frame as well. He is riding the same, just the longer version of it. He was and still is such a big support for me over all these years and is one of my biggest heroes. His lovely character as well as his unique riding style inspires me a lot and I am deeply thankful to have his support and friendship.
How did that wet willy game start? And now who’s joined the fun?
It was all Sietse’s idea I swear, hahaha! Actually, I was the victim and just tried to involve more people in order to distract from the attention I got in this game. Ok, I am not as innocent as I pretend. And although they made me really paranoid with this game in Japan beginning of 2019, it was so much fun. In Montpellier, Sietse set this game to a new level and dipped his finger in either ice cream or yoghurt before he wet willied me. He even once put salad with a lot of dressing in my ear. I wasn’t so creative in my performance but tried to score with higher frequency. Somehow I still wonder that nobody got an ear infection and how Gilles managed to stay out of this the whole season.
Speaking of involving other people. Yes, we step by step tried to get more people into it. I guess one of the first officially invited participants was Terry Adams with getting a double wet willy from Sietse and me, followed by you Effraim. I will never forget when you struck back when I was sitting next to Bob Haro in that Mexican Bar in Cologne. Some people were shocked, and we almost cried from laughing. Priceless! (editors note: Thats on my instagram: I think I did cry from laughing!)
Attila, Celine, Matthieu and Scott were also in for a short time, but as much as I think that people enjoyed watching us playing this game, nobody really wanted to be part of it. And as even the funniest joke get old once; we stopped doing it after the BMX Worlds in Cologne when Sietse wet willied me during an interview. But we created the “panda panda panda” song/movement in China, so that’s our new thing, which didn’t harm anybody (so far).
What do you outside of riding?
Apart from riding my bike as much as I can and doing things around riding (stretching, work outs, talking to my coaches, mental exercises, social media, contest preparation, etc.), I am working 40 hours a week, meet my friends and try to keep my flat clean. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot but still I am always busy.
Describe your lifestyle living in Vienna?
I like to live a simple lifestyle. I don’t care so much about material things or fancy knickknack. I try to consciously eat healthy, respect the environment and aim for having a lot of great memories and adventures over owning things. If all theses things are considered a certain lifestyle I don’t know but they are definitely important in my life.
What kind of music are you into Irina?
I mainly listen to Rock and Punk. But I also like classic music or some musicals and I love to sing along with Disney soundtracks as well. But I am quite anti in regard of electronic music like Techno, Drum’n’Bass, and some more I can’t even name. Musically, I am actually quite open for many things but electronic music makes me kind of nervous. Best band in the world in my opinion: Foo Fighters.
What would you say are the differences in your mental state from competing before being coached by Martti Kuoppa and after (now as the UCI World Champion)?
Before I started working with Martti, I saw riding BMX mainly as a physical challenge. Martti taught me the importance of mental strength, having a sharp focus and concentrate on the presence. So yes, he definitely helps me a lot in improving my mental state and also to gain more self-confidence in riding competitions. As much as I enjoy riding contests, I am also really nervous and stressed before and during my run and even in practice. I talked a lot to Martti about nervousness and being under pressure and he gave me great advices and some exercises to be able to handle these stress situations better. I will never get rid of being nervous but I learned and I’m still learning to cope with it in a different way and to transform these emotions into something positive.
Another important fact that helped me a lot in gaining more self-confidence during competition is that we worked intensively on my consistency level. Martti started coaching me some months before China, and although that’s not too long time, my consistency level in regard to my contest combos improved immensely. This had a big effect on my mental state/strength as well.
I love that Martti combines this type of mental training with the coaching, and I definitely see a big difference to before being coached by him.
Who do you ride with on regular basis, when you not injured of course?
It’s definitely Coach Sebastian. He is taking every chance to be on his bike and work on his insane rolling tricks and combinations, and I enjoy riding with him a lot – good times only with this fella. We got very good friends over all these years, and I appreciate a lot that he is supporting and pushing me so much. His great dedication for BMX, his creativity and the fact that he enjoys being on his bike so much is influencing me in a very positive way and I can’t be more happy about having such a cool riding buddy. Also Attila from fourpegsbmx is a motivated member of the “Heldenplatz” Crew and as mentioned there are also several other riders like Silvio from VansVienna, Adam, Pino or guys from our old school crew I like to ride with. It is also always a pleasure when Markus Redlberger or Gernot Ibounig joins us on “Heldenplatz” as they usually ride different spots, but as mentioned Sebastian is definitely the one I am riding on a regular basis with.
Tell me about bike set up?
Frame: Heresy Ascend V2, raw, 19“
Tires: Maxxis Torch, 1.95 (front wheel) and 1.75 (rear wheel)
Rims: KHE big O (front) and V (rear)
Freecoaster and hub: KHE Greyhound
Fork: KHE Tanaka
Pegs: V3 plastic pegs made by fourpegsbmx.
Seatpost and seat: KHE Prism and Watanabe.
Bar: Flybikes suelo (but not 100% sure about that)
Grips: Heresy Evergrip
Barends and Gripstops: Heresy Alliance
Headset: Heresy Path
Sprocket: Cinema Rewind (25T)
Crank: Profile Racing Crankset 165mm
Crank Axle: Profile Titanium 19mm
For further details and orders go, and check out: www.fourpegsbmx.com
How do you feel the Women’s flatland class is developing? Do you notice a difference from previous years?
I can remember when I was at the BMX Worlds in Cologne in 2004, which was the first contest I took part in. We were 12 women participating, the vibes were great, it motivated me a lot to see everybody doing their tricks and I was so happy to finally get in touch and ride with some other BMX girls. Unfortunately, the number of girls decreased over the following years (2005 – 2009), at least at those contests I was entering. Sometimes, we also had girl’s jams instead of contest runs due to the small number of participants (3 to maximum 4 girls). I don’t know exactly how the situation was the following years as I did a break from riding contests and later also from riding in general but I assume it was similar.
Back in the business, I started following the whole BMX circus again and I was happy to see that there were many motivated girls shredding on their bikes at e.g. the FISE stops in 2018. As I had my comeback in 2019 and was riding as much contests as I could, I experienced it by myself. We were at least 5 girls at each contest and even 10 at the FISE stop in Montpellier and the BMX Worlds in Cologne. This is for sure also due to the positive influence of role models like Misaki in Japan or Celine in France who encourage more and more girls to show their skills at contests as well. And Erin Fricke is the perfect example of pushing girls to the next level and I was super stoked to ride with her in Montpellier. So the number of female competitors definitely increases again, we have our own girl’s class and practice and also get price money at most of the big contests, which is a huge step for us. I also have the feeling that we get featured more often on social media and also get recaps of our class on certain streams, which is a great promotion and helps us a lot. All these factors for sure have a great impact and positive influence on the development of the woman’s Flatland class.
Over all these years I am riding now, I always had the feeling that girls got a lot of support and everybody appreciates that we are part of it. However, in the last years girls get even more pushed and more attention compared to over 10 years ago. It’s great to witness that and I am looking forward to the years to come.
Last proper question I promise Irina…How do you feel about being nominated for the FM Year End Awards 2019?
Oh man, getting nominated in 3 categories for the flatmattersonline Year End Awards 2019 and seeing my name next to so many incredible riders and heroes is an overwhelming and breathtaking feeling and brings tears of happiness to my eyes. Being nominated for the “breakthrough rider” and “contest run of the year” (readers vote) as well as for “outstanding contribution” (editorial vote) is such a BIG honor for me that I have the feeling that I won already (regardless of the final decision). I couldn’t be happier and thank you all from the bottom of my heart for so much support and appreciation.
Any final shoutouts?
I want to take the chance here to thank a lot of wonderful people for their friendship, love and support which is so important for me – happiness wouldn’t be the same joy without sharing it with you!
Thanks to my wonderful family and friends for their endless love and for sharing my excitements, thanks Kati for being the best friend in the world and such an important part of my life, thank you Lutte for introducing me to BMX flatland and teaching me the first steps on my bike, thank you coach Sebastian for your huge support and friendship over all these years, thank you Martti for teaching me so many new and important things and being such an amazing coach, thanks to my colleagues (especially Gabi and Emir) for cheering for me and listening to my BMX stories during work, thanks WS Crew for your support, thank you all for being part of the BMX family and making riding Flatland so much more fun and last but not least thanks to all my sponsors for their trust, support and love – super happy to be part of your team.
Moreover, I also want to thank you Effraim! I think I can speak for so many people here when I say that we deeply appreciate all the work, and effort you put into BMX Flatland. I don’t take it for granted that you invest so much energy and time to do flatmattersonline, to inform us about all the great events and results, to present the incredible skills of so many amazing riders and to motivate us to keep on shredding. You are doing such an amazing work; I love to read your repos and watch all the videos/pictures you are posting. Keep that fire burning. You are a great guy – thank you so much for your outstanding contribution to BMX Flatland!!!!!!!!!!!
I am very happy and thankful for the opportunity to do this interview, to have the possibility to tell you a bit more about myself and to be able to represent a female rider perspective.
Hope you enjoy it!
Thank you Irina, this has been a pleasure catching up and getting to know more about you. We all wish you a speedy recovery with your knee injury, and we look forward to seeing you back on board your bike sooner rather than later. Flatland will be here, waiting for you. Thanks everyone for tuning in and reading this one… – Effraim