Jenny Rissveds had it all. An incredible mountain biker with impressive wins that included gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the U23 World Champion in 2016, and the U23 World Cup in 2015, Jenny was propelled into winning and seemed to be rising fast into an incredible career in XCO racing.
After winning the Olympic gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Rissveds was at her best in the sport but the loss of several family members in 2017, along with injury worries and disputes with her national federation, made her fall into a depression that was exacerbated by the pressure of the competition. In 2017 Jenny Rissveds, only 23 years old, announced that she was leaving competition to recover from a deep depression that led her to a severe eating disorder. In 2018 she broke her relationship with the Scott SRAM team to focus on her recovery completely.
We were happy to hear in 2019 that the Olympic champion is back on a mountain bike. Rissveds has done it with her own team, Team 31. At the beginning of 2019 we could see that something was brewing following a series of cryptic posts she made on her social networks. Jenny revealed that she was part of a new team that she had created, Team 31, and that they had the support of Specialized, Shimano and Thule. Team 31 is a very personal project with which Rissveds intends to fall in love with this sport again. At the moment it seems that Team 31 flees from the pressures of high competition, although it would not surprise us to see the team competing for podiums in future...
Team31 is built around Program31 which encourages children and their participation in sport.
As per the Team 31 website:
Program 31 is an initiative to promote children’s rights according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in general, and its 31st article in particular.
Program 31 shall inspire children to:
• Activate themselves and to engage in spontaneous play
• Be a good friend and to treat their peers as they want to be
• Stay away from tobacco, alcohol and drugs
• Use their curiosity and to try new activities, physical, cultural or educational
• Take advantage of the opportunity to study and to get an education
• Appreciate differences and diversity in sports, games, school and the social life
• Demand from the adult society and the world that children shall have the right to remain children and that the Convention of the right of the child shall be respected
The philosophy behind Team 31
From top sportswoman and Olympic champion, the journey for Jenny has not been all single-track goodness and mountain top bliss. She has struggled to come to terms with stepping away and losing her competitive edge returning to the World Cup circuit slightly off the pace. Jenny is open and honest about her journey and we here at Dirtyheart are inspired by that honesty around her mental illness and the journey she is on to recovery. She is a remarkable example to us ordinary folk that top professional athletes are simply normal people with added pressures. They face challenges as we do but have the added pressure of a sea of people looking back at them with disappointment when they don't perform. Pro athletes have fears and heartaches. They also have moments of weakness, which society often doesn't understand and seems to condemn them for.
Jenny at the start of the UCI XCO World Cup Race in Vallnord.
Jenny inspires us to remember that despite pain, illness and outside opinions, we can be better. We can rise again and face our demons and we don't have to be ashamed to do it. On Sunday 7 July 2019 Jenny managed to finish 5th in the women's elite UCI XCO World Cup series race at Vallnord, after starting as the last placed qualifier. A race of goddess proportions. It is not just about her coming back and being competitive, it is the fact that she was prepared to come to the start line again and race for something bigger than herself...
Jenny's thoughts following her incredible race at the UCI world Cup race in Vallnord on 7 July 2018.
So if anything, remember that despite all that is thrown at you in your personal and sporting life, you are stronger than you know and braver then you believe.