How Motorcross Racer Dayna Nienaber Holds Her Own In A Male-Dominated Space
Dayna’s sport is not for sissies. For starters, motocross racing is an extreme sport, where riders on roaring dirt bikes are pitted against each other in a Mad Max-esque setting. Then there’s the fact that Dayna is a woman in a largely testosterone-fuelled space. But that hasn’t stopped her from racking up medals – even coming in second place racing against the guys at one race. That drive? It’s part of her DNA. “I can honestly say that competitiveness has always been a part of me. It’s not something I had to learn,” she says.
Adrenaline is part and parcel of Dayna’s life. At the drop of a hat, she needs to be ready to go around the track at lightning speed. “In a race, you’re not going to get time to chill and warm-up,” she says. “When you’re on the start line, there are about 40 bikes on the same start line as you; if you don’t get that whole shot, and get onto the gas you’re gonna lose almost 40 positions and you can’t afford that… There are so many techniques to get you faster, but at the end of the day, it comes down to who’s got the most balls.”
She Focuses On Herself
Dayna’s also a model, and was Miss Queen SA in 2016. As a blonde, blue-eyed model, she struggles to get taken seriously on the track. She’s had to learn to disregard the opinions of everyone around her. “It’s always been challenging being female in a male-dominated sport. But I’ve never seen myself as female, I’ve always just seen myself as another athlete. I think that is what brought me so far.”
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She Gets In The Zone
“In most sport, people want to do good or stress about the pressure that’s on them. Forget about the pressure,” she says. “It’s your race, and you’re the only one there. That’s what gives me that extra push to do well.” Dayna’s go-to move? Rapid breathing through her mouth to bring her heart rate up. “That immediately brings an adrenaline spike through my body,” she says.
She Mentors People
Because her sport is so low on females, Dayna’s started her own mentorship programme. “You think you’re just coaching someone, but afterwards they’ll come to you and say ‘Wow, you’re an inspiration, and we can’t do this without you’,” she says. “It’s a very beautiful and emotional thing to have.”