With only two more FMB Diamond Events ahead of us the suspense is reaching its boiling point. Two athletes have positioned themselves at the top of the rankings and will hope to gain the advantage at Red Bull Joyride at Crankworx Whistler: reigning FMB World Champion Nicholi Rogatkin is hot on the heels of young-gun Emil Johansson. Only 30 points separate the two and we had the chance to talk to each of them before they drop into the legendary course in Whistler. You can watch all the FMB Diamond Series action from Crankworx Whistler live on Red Bull TV and on fmbworldtour.com from 7.30pm CEST / 1.30pm EDT / 10.30am PDT!
Hi Emil, hi Nicholi, Thanks for taking the time! Things are getting really exciting at this time of the year. Are you happy with how things have played out so far?
Emil: Yeah for sure! I can’t complain (laughs).
Nicholi: This season has been epic so far. There have been endless good times with the boys on and off the bike at every event. In addition to those good times I’ve been fortunate to lay down some big runs, which is always an incredible feeling to accomplish.
You guys are neck and neck at the top of the ranking. Do you feel any tension between you? What’s the atmosphere like in the riders lounge these days?
Emil: Nicholi is a great rider and it’s close between us point-wise, but I don’t think about that. I love riding my bike and progressing, so that’s what I am focusing on. One of the reasons I love to ride bikes is the atmosphere between the riders. There are no hard feelings and we are all friends.
Nicholi: Emil has impressed the entire biking world this year with his riding. It’s been really sick to watch him perform magic and to compete against him has been fun as well as we’ve definitely pushed each other to get gnarly on all the different courses. The fact that we are neck and neck in the standings and have been during several events has not created any tension at all. It has actually made us closer. After I visited Sweden earlier in the season and he recently came to Boston, we are better homies than ever heading into Joyride.
Emil, one year ago you just broke on to the scene. Today you are in contention for the FMB World Champion Title. If you think back to your break through moment at 26TRIX in Leogang last year, don’t you feel overwhelmed sometimes?
Emil: Wow, life is crazy! Time has flown by so fast. I sometimes think back on it and get overwhelmed, because it still has been a long learning curve to get here.
Nicholi, you may be able to become the first athlete to defend the FMB World Championship since the Diamond Series has been inducted. Slopestyle is such a mental game, how do you handle the pressure and does this influence you in any way?
Nicholi: Handling pressure is something all athletes do differently, even in slopestyle you see every individual rider with different rituals and attitudes on contest day. Personally the way I deal with the pressure is getting stoked for all the other riders. We all have so many nerves at the big events and everyone has the same goal: make it to the bottom of your run successfully. So when you see your good friends nail their dream runs and you get stoked for them, you feel that much more confident when it’s your turn to drop in and you are ready to nail your run as well.
You both have very different backgrounds when it comes to how you started out in the sport – you haven’t always been at the level you are now. Could you tell us a bit about how you came to the sport and where you started off?
Emil: My passion for riding bikes has always been there. I started watching videos of Martin Söderström on the internet around the age of 8. Then I just started riding more and more and also traveled to an indoor park that had a foam pit. But until I was 14 I did not ride much more than once, maybe twice a week because I played both hockey and was a goalkeeper in handball. I quit these sports though and started focusing on what made me the happiest and that was spending time on my bike.
Nicholi: I come from a full BMX background and started riding BMX when I was 5 years of age after my neighbor showed me some dirt jumps near my house. I was instantly hooked. It became evident that my biggest passion in biking was riding big jumps, doing tricks and flying. After years of dirt jumping I won the BMX Worlds on dirt in 2013. Unfortunately at the time the BMX dirt scene was really fading, with less and less events around. I always had so much respect for mountain bike slopestyle and saw the magnitude of the sport. I never imagined myself getting into it, but thankfully Martin Söderström and Geoff Rogers helped me get on a Specialized hard tail. I put so much work into making almost all my BMX tricks work on a MTB. Ever since a 6th place result at my first ever slopestyle event in Colorado, I’ve been fully committed to pushing this sport as much as I possibly can.
Let’s get to Red Bull Joyride. For many, Crankworx Whistler is one of the most prestigious events of the year. Can you tell us what this event means to you personally?
Emil: Red Bull Joyride is for sure the most prestigious event of the year. It’s a privilege for me to be a part of it. I have good memories of last year when I was able to come fourth.
Nicholi: Crankworx Whistler is an event that everyone feels so honored to be a part of. It’s an absolutely epic week and Whistler is a dream place. Personally to me it’s an inspiring event as it puts all of us slopestyle riders on center stage at an incredible venue and we get to showcase our riding to the world. That is something we will remember forever.
What has your preparation looked like the last couple of weeks?
Emil: I’m not fully satisfied at the moment to be honest. I don’t feel 100% on the bike, because I wasn’t able to get as much riding in as I wanted to when I was back home in Sweden. But I’m really looking forward to the contest and we will see how it feels after a couple of days of practice!
Nicholi: The past few weeks have been filled with competitions. I got a very important and emotional win at Colorado Freeride Festival, which was as I mentioned before my first ever slopestyle event. Last week I went to one of my favorite places Vigo, Spain, for a dirt jump contest there. I flew from Vigo straight to Whistler, which was a hell of a trip but completely worth it. So I’m definitely in competition mode coming for Joyride.
Do you have any new tricks up your sleeve for this special occasion?
Emil: We will see…
Nicholi: I always have new tricks up my sleeve. It’s going to depend on the level of competition and how confident I’m feeling on the course as to whether or not I will unleash one of them!
Thanks so much for taking the time guys and good luck to you both!
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