Tuhoto-Ariki Pene, of Te Arawa, is the first Māori to win the National Mountain Bike Downhill Series back-to-back and is a seven-time national champion.
He also won the Junior Men Downhll at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Italy.
Yet he is only 19 and has been around the world racing on some of the world’s most daring tracks.
Pene started riding BMX at the age of three, following in the footsteps of his siblings who were also champions in the sport.
“It started with my older sister Kayla and my older brother Ihakara,” Pene said. “They used to ride BMX and then I just followed on in their footsteps. We used to travel around in a bus and just wake up at the next track, and go race.”
“Mum and dad just, I don’t know, gave everything to us.”
However, Pene’s global success in the sport hasn’t always come easily. He started out riding alongside his big brother Ihakara Pene who died in 2018.
“I went through a patch where I was like ‘I don’t know whether I should keep going in the sport’, because I was hanging around different stuff and I was just on my own buzz.
“But I remember one day I looked in the mirror and I was like ‘yeah, I want to keep riding’ because whenever I was on the bike I just felt like I was still following him in the bush, you know, it was smooth. You could hear the tyres and hear the birds and being out in nature was good. It was just how it was back in the day.”
Pene loves nothing more than being on his bike and the adrenaline rush he gets from the sport drives him forward.
“I think the … lifestyle is real cool. I like being around mountainbikers and everything.
“I just like the feeling of going fast on the bike, big jumps and the big crowds when you’re racing, it’s cool.”
And he has an important message for other young people.
“Just do it. Get a bike and do it. It doesn’t matter what sport you do, just do it.
“We just did it because we loved it.
“Don’t let anyone stop you. I haven’t let anyone stop me yet, so just keep going,” he said.
Pene will head over to Europe for the world cup later this year.
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