In what can be described as NZ’s best ever-to-date Women’s Motocross World Cup Champion, Katherine Oberlin-Brown (nee Prumm) set precedent for many aspiring young female riders- not just dirt- to achieve their dream goals of racing on the world stage.
For what has become NZ’s historical legacy, Katherine set couragous sights on racing Women’s World MX Cup in 2005 while still at school in NZ. I can vividly remember how driven Katherine was to go after goals set. Fitting in cycling training during school-hour-long lunch-break. The wet T-shirts from standing spin-cycling for hours, while my gym session had finished many hours before.
And all the while, confident that success would come.
Yet, there was no celebratory status for Katherine. If anything, the daughter of Helen and the late Eric Prumm, and sister to Mathew played down her racing career- until on the track. Then, lining up against the guys in MX2 at NZ’s Motocross National Championships, Katherine proved she could out-smart most and race up-front- just as good as any MX2 National rider.
In fact, Katherine rocked! And when tackling tough challenge to race Women’s World Cup in 2005 finishing 2nd behind Steffi Laier, Katherine knew what was next. Pounding lap-after-lap during training back in NZ, putting in massive effort at the gym, cycling for x-amount of kms- she really was a force to be reckoned with. And it paid off.
Katherine won Women’s World Cup in 2006 and 2007 which gained acknowledgement by Youthstream’s President Giuseppe Luongo, the class would be elevated to FIM World MX Championship status in 2008.
Now, on the verge of NZ’s next, potentially Women MX World Champion, Courtney Duncan carves next chapter of the sports Title holders. At just 10 years of age, Courtney watched Katherine stand top step of the podium- twice- and made the promise to herself- ‘I want to be Women World MX Champion one day too’.
Heading into 2019 WMX Final Round in just over week’s time, I caught up with Katherine and asked what was it like going into Women’s World Cup in 2006 Round 2 at Uddevalla knowing it would be Title decider?
#47: ‘Going into the Final Round of the Championship in 2006 it was a mix of nervousness and excitement of being on the verge of achieving my childhood dream of becoming World Champion for the first time. You know you have come so far and it’s up to you to control your emotion and put the final steps in place to win the title. You have to approach it like any other race and not let the emotion of the title derail your performance’.
With Katherine spending most of her preparation and training time in NZ, (which Courtney has chosen to as well for ‘019), there would be distinct advantages of being in home-zone to perfect performance as well as missed opportunities to train within Euro environment measuring pace against seasoned GP riders.
Katherine’s thoughts: ‘I enjoyed coming from NZ to race in Europe and felt that I could use it to my advantage. Competing with the men all year round at races and in training in NZ pushed me to improve as a racer, physically and mentally, to ensure that when I returned to Europe I would be the most competitive on the track’.
‘Although NZ is far away, I enjoyed travelling to Europe a few weeks ahead of the races and putting in solid training blocks. This allowed me to work very hard on specific aspects of my performance (and bike performance) in the lead up to different tracks and enabled me to feel confident and ready for the races. I think this focus can sometimes be difficult to attain when you are in Europe all the time but coming from NZ it made it feel like an opportunity others didn’t have and kept you fresh and motivated’.
Winning 2 Women’s World Cups was an astounding success. Not just proving that Women riders can mix it with the best and win on the world stage, even when living on the other side of the globe, but shouting loud and clear- Women race just as competively as their male counter-parts and deserve equal recognition.
Youthstream President Giuseppe Luongo gave credence where due stating at the FIM Awards of World Champions: ‘We also want to thank the 2006 and 2007 FIM Women’s World MX Cup winner Katherine Prumm as a great ambassador for the future Women World Championship’.
What did racing and winning Women’s World Cup 2x mean, personally and professionally for Katherine?
#37: ‘As a World Champion I felt it was important to promote women’s motorcycling. When I first began racing there wasn’t a pathway for young female riders to aspire to and I wanted young girls to be able to dream of becoming a World Champion Rider and know that it wasn’t just for boys. Motocross is an exciting sport that teaches you how to be disciplined, hard working, goal oriented, and also provides an avenue for amazing friendships and enjoyment so I wanted to share that with other women’.
For sure, the level of competition in WMX is the highest in the world, full-gate of goal-orientated, determined, gutsy riders from seasoned racers to young up-coming talent across 12 different Nationalities. Is the challenge to win just as great as it was for Katherine?
#37: ‘Yes I think the challenge is just as great now as it was when I was racing. There are more and more Women riding and the prestige of winning the title is driving the competitiveness each year. Everyone wants to win the world title but there can only be one each year so this drives the racers to become better each year’.
And to wrap an inspiring article to write, I asked Katherine her thoughts on what her focus was heading into Women’s World Cup in 2006 and 2007?
#37: ‘Control the controllables and you will do the business. Prepare for the event with as much focus as you would for any other race… focus on the process (ie how you are going to race) and the outcome will take care of itself’.
Katherine would like to add personal note to Courtney: ‘On a personal level I would like to wish Courtney all the best for the Final Round. Keep calm, focus, and race like you know you can. I’m excited to see you finally bring the World Championship home to NZ once again…. and on a Kawasaki!!’
Words: Sharon Cox