Ashley Fiolek, a four-time Women’s Motocross National Champion and two-time X Games gold medalist, recently visited Sunset Ridge in Walnut to provide an aerial education and kick the wheels with motocross riders from all around the area.
Illinois Valley Living caught up with the energetic extreme athlete – who has been profoundly deaf since birth - to ask her about the heights she has experienced in her career and how she uses them to encourage others.
IVL: What is motorcross riding to you?
Fiolek: It is what I always wanted to do. Since I’m deaf I had to have an Individualized Education Program at school every year to determine how I was doing and what I wanted to do in the future. Each year they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said a professional MX racer. Every year they laughed at me and said, ‘No, really?’ My parents just supported me and said, ‘Put that down; that is what she wants to be!’”
IVL: How have bikes impacted your outlook on others?
Fiolek: I think I look at extreme sports different and have mad respect for people that are willing to give it their all for something that they love.
IVL: What’s it like when you are above the earth and floating like a bird?
Fiolek: It is the best feeling ever. A feeling of total freedom.
IVL: How many bones have you broken?
Fiolek: Ten, but that’s not too bad considering. In MX racing it’s not “if” you break a bone, it is when.
IVL: Give us two examples of when you thought your cheeks were going to crack you were smiling so hard, due to motocross?
Fiolek: Well, that is easy! When I won my first professional race, in my rookie year it was what I had been training for since I was about 10 , and of course, winning X Games is the best feeling ever. To be on the podium with an X Games gold around your neck in the sport you love is unbeatable.
IVL: What do you love about coming to small town America and teaching children about riding?
Fiolek: Ahh, it is wonderful! I love teaching. I never thought I would, but it is an amazing feeling. When I get someone to accomplish what I am trying to teach them and see their face light up, mine lights up also.
IVL: How have you soared because of the dirt track where you may not have otherwise?
Fiolek: I was pretty shy until I found racing. I was quiet at my school and didn’t hang out with many people. With riding, it helped me to realize who I was and who I wanted to become.
IVL: How intense is center stage, and does it all rely on a grateful approach?
Fiolek: It’s intense at first, but then it is fun. I think for me I just realize how lucky I am to be able to do what I do and to be appreciated and respected for it, and then it is just all about the fun.
IVL: What would you be doing if you weren’t carving gold out of the trophy factory?
Fiolek: Hmmm, I honestly don’t know. Is there anything else? Haha!
IVL: How much fun do you have when you crank the throttle and feel both wheels spinning like Frisbees?
Fiolek: Riding to me is just about having fun and feeling the freedom of riding a bike. To me, there is no other feeling like it.
IVL: How do you remain humble after experiencing so much success?
Fiolek: I guess I just appreciate everything that God has let me do in my life. I have always had my parents with me, supporting me, and so many people have helped me it just makes me feel grateful.
IVS: If you could improve your arena in one way, what would that be?
Fiolek: I wish the girls were given an equal shot at racing, same as the guys.