IT IS hard to imagine the race-hardened, helmet-wearing and tattooed Emily Polsen stopping at a market stall to make teddy bears with her mother.
But that is exactly how the now 19-year-old got involved in BMX eight years ago - the sport that has been her passion ever since.
Polsen is among the top echelon of female riders in Australia and finished second at the Victorian State Titles in Melbourne last week. Now she is off to the National Titles at Nerang on January 4-6, where she will go handlebar to handlebar with some of the riders who raced in the London Olympics.
"I'm really looking forward to that," Polsen said with a sarcastic look. "The Olympic riders are another level above. They have more skill, train every single day and race professionally all year round.
"I keep up with them through the first straight and around the first few turns but that's about it at this stage.
"It's hard because at the moment the only chance I get to practise with the track fully open is on a Wednesday afternoon, and I rarely race here in Grafton as I am usually working weekends."
Polsen earns a living slicing and serving behind the deli counter at Coles, working mainly to support her hobby.
"It's an adrenaline rush.
"When you get to the top of a really steep start hill and the gates drop, it's just a rush to fly down the track next to eight other riders, and I love getting amongst the bunch into the first turn.
"I'd love to make it to the Olympic level. It's definitely something all young riders will aspire to now BMX is in the Olympics.
"But it's not easy. I'm the only senior girl riding in Grafton, but hopefully that will change with all these young girls starting to ride."
Polsen, like many girls in the sport, followed her brother into trying BMX after her mother got talking with a woman at the teddy bear-making stall at the markets almost a decade ago.
Her grandson was a BMX rider and once Polsen's brother caught the bug, Emily had to give it a try.
"I had to be peer-pressured into it at first," she said.
"But once I got started I have never looked back. It's a great sport to be involved in, but you have to be prepared to travel.
"To qualify for the nationals you have to earn points at all the state rounds. If you finish in the top 16 at the Australian Titles you get to ride in the World Champs in New Zealand.
"I qualified for that a few years ago when I finished 13th in the Australian Titles, and I hope I can do it again next year."
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