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ACT Sport stars shine bright: Rebecca Henderson

Morgan Alexander

Rebecca Henderson transformed her childhood passion for mountain biking into a career as an elite cross-country bike-racing athlete.

Introduced to the sport at age ten, Rebecca (Bec) climbed the competitive ladder to compete in world championships by the time she turned 17.

As a Canberra native, Bec recently represented Australia at her second Summer Olympics in Rio and is one of the many local athletes who will be recognised for their talent and training as voting for the People’s Sporting Champion of the 2016 Inaugural CBR Sports Awards takes place.

Bec’s career started when she began mountain biking with her father and older brother. Realising the sport was more than a pleasurable pastime, she started racing in local club competitions and eventually progressed to the New South Wales and National series levels.

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Rebecca Henderson

It didn’t take long for Bec to work her way into world competitions, firstly competed on the international stage at the 2008 World Championships in Italy, and now spends up to half of the year abroad as a professional racer, chasing the World Cup series with her fiancé and fellow Olympian mountain biker, Dan.

“Mountain biking brings so many different people together and I love [being] a part of that. I have been fortunate to find a sport that I love and that I am able to share with so many people close to me,” she reflects.

This passion has allowed Bec to compete in two Olympics. Her first experience was at the London Summer Olympics in 2012.

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“London was all about making the Olympic Team,” Bec explains. It was a time of development and experience that fed into her future competitions. After London, she won the Under 23 World Cup series in 2013 and achieved a bronze medal for Australia (and herself) in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Things were shaken up when Bec came down with glandular fever in mid 2015 (she took the competitive mountain biking season off that year to rest and recuperate). When 2016 began and Bec turned her ambitions to training for the Rio Olympics, she felt fresh from a short break, and coming off a successful  Australian season she was “ready to go” for the year.

The season started out terrifically. Bec winning the national and Oceania championships, and made her way to the 2016 World Cup podium, placing third in the competition on home soil in Cairns. She was on track and quietly confident for the Olympics in August.

“Unfortunately things started to get bumpy in Rio,” says Bec, admitting that her health took another hit. This time a latent back injury ‘showed its ugly face’ after arriving in Brazil, and without her usual team of support, Bec struggled to keep the condition under control.

Bec and her partner Dan

Bec and her fiance Dan

As a result, she didn’t perform as well as she had hoped. Bec confesses the experience was tough to cope with after working so hard to reach the Olympic destination, but she stayed positive through it all, supporting Dan as he competed in the men’s racing division.

Similarly, the Canberra community has buoyed Bec throughout her journey, with local clubs and groups supporting her efforts both in racing and fundraising. This is what makes the People’s Sporting Champion Award so important — it recognises the effort and sacrifice of our local sportspeople and the community that supports them. Take a moment to cast your vote.

Voting closes on Friday 14 October — visit www.cbrsportawards.com.au to have your say.

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Morgan Alexander

Morgan is passionate about both writing and social and environmental issues. She believes media, by uniting these in a publically accessible way, can be a powerful tool for creating awareness and change. Currently a student at ANU, studying human rights, development studies and international relations, Morgan also works at the ANU Student Media newspaper Woroni. She treasures her family and friends, cooks to relieve stress, and can’t get enough of her pets. When not huddled in a library trying to figure out life, she also enjoys yoga, running, music, reading, and movies. More about the Author

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