For regional athlete and Royal Wolf scholarship winner Marissa Drummond, cycling is more than a sport, it’s a way of life.
Based in Geraldton in Western Australia, the 40-year-old cross country mountain biking champion exemplifies what it takes to be a top athlete – hard work, dedication and plenty of travel.
“I wake up at 5am and I’m on the road by 5.20am and then go pick up my brother, as we’ll train together most mornings,” she says.
It was her brother and training partner, Royal Wolf’s Geraldton Branch Manager Andre Eastough, who suggested she apply for the Royal Wolf Family Sports and Arts Scholarship.
As part of the Royal Wolf Employee Benefits Program, the scholarship is open to children and siblings of Royal Wolf employees and provides recipients with $5000 to help relieve the financial burden of competing at a national and international level. Marissa was recently named one of the first-ever scholarship recipients.
GOING THE DISTANCE
Living in a regional town, the travel to and from competitions can be quite costly. The nearest competition venue for Marissa is 450km away.
As a result, Marissa says she only tends to travel for the bigger events, like state and national championships.
“We were lucky last year that the national championships came to WA - it’s quite rare for that to happen. It usually involves travelling to Perth and then to the east coast,” she explains.
“State championships are only once a year, national championships are only once a year, but then I try to find exciting events in between as well. I’m hoping to do three or four big ones next year, more if I can manage.”
Last year, the commitment paid off, with Marissa winning her division in the Cross Country Marathon (XCM) event at both national and state championships. She also took home the state title in the Cross Country Olympic (XCO) category.
Like many top athletes, Marissa lives and breathes her sport.
“I’m very bike-focused,” she laughs. “I work at a bike shop, and I’m also a cycling coach, as well as an athlete. I’m involved in lots of things, but they all have to do with cycling!”
When it comes to balancing training with work and family commitments, Marissa says it all comes down to structure. She rides 35km each morning, while weekend training is often longer and more focused on the event she is preparing for.
“Sometimes it’s a hard day, sometimes it’s just active recovery. And then on the weekends, that’s when we try to factor in the longer rides or more specific training,” Marissa says.
Training for one particular event last year, she did an eight-hour training ride, which meant getting up at 2am to beat traffic and heat.
Thankfully Marissa has her family, friends and colleagues backing her every step of the way.
“I’ve got a really good support network, and my brother’s a really great support as well. He’ll come out with me on some of the early rides, so I’m not on my own on the road. It’s just a balancing act really. Structure is the key.”
Receiving the Royal Wolf scholarship was really exciting, Marissa says, as there is not a lot of financial support available to mature athletes and travel for competition is expensive.
“To have some support as an older athlete, it means quite a lot actually. It will really help out. It’s nice to have a bit of money aside that’s just going to be for me and my riding, and I won’t feel like I’m pinching it from school fees or something like that,” she says.
“It will mean the difference between going to an event next year and not going to an event next year, to be honest.”
With the 2023 season firmly in her sights, Marissa is shooting for a place on top of the podium once again.
“I would very much like to compete and podium at a national level again,” she says. “That’s the goal.”
The Family Sports and Arts Scholarship supports talented family members of Royal Wolf employees. Part of the Royal Wolf Employee Benefits Program, the scholarship is open to the children or siblings of employees, with recipients being awarded $5000 to put towards the pursuit of their dreams.