Two years ago, Hamish Powell was just mountainbiking for fun when his friend convinced him at the last minute to enter nationals.
“I thought I might as well give it a shot,” he says.
Despite little preparation, and battling a suspected concussion, Hamish was crowned the best in the country for his age. It’s a title he has kept since.
The Nelson College student has now won the secondary schools nationals three years in a row, a legacy he wants to continue throughout his high school career.
But Hamish’s first title didn’t come easily.
The 14-year-old took a nasty crash during a practice run in 2017 and had to be tested for concussion.
After answering just four of the five questions correctly, Hamish was told to go see a medic.
However, he defied those orders and opted to race anyway, placing first in the downhill.
After repeating the feat in 2018, Hamish was convinced to switch from downhill to enduro after watching YouTube videos got him “intrigued”.
It wasn’t long until he was dominating this discipline too, winning the U14 enduro in Dunedin last month.
He says he enjoyed a smooth ride after some heavy rain in the region before the competition.
“It was pretty wet on the Wednesday, but it dried up by Friday and the track was in really good condition.”
Hamish is now spending up to 20 hours a week riding.
“Nelson is really good for riding, when you do a bit of back country you get some really good views.”
His affinity for two wheels started at a young age.
“I was about three when I jumped on a bike, and got rid of the training wheels pretty quick.”
He says it was a love of sharing moments with mates that drove his passion.
A torn ligament in his shoulder forced him out of rugby and led him to focus on mountainbiking.
Though he has endured plenty of injuries coming off the bike too, he is never deterred by the crashes.
“It’s always in the back of your head but you get used to it, it’s all worth it despite the risks.”