Student Mandy is one of the best motocross riders in the Netherlands.
The biggest passion of second year Educational theory Mandy Vogelkamp: Motocross. She started participating in the National Championship when she was only thirteen years old, but a severe injury put a stop on her march. After two and a half years without riding motorbikes, she made an amazing comeback last year.
“When those starting gates fall, I give the race my all. I forget everything. It’s just go, go, go. I have to keep going. Excitement, speed, a lot of adrenaline. I’m completely focused on the race and everything around me disappears. If I had a good race, I’m incredibly happy. If it was a bad one, it would be best not to be near me for a while”. The love for motocross started with Mandy (18) at an early age. When she was only six years old, she was already riding circles in her grandfather’s meadow. “I saw my dad ride at a local cross track and I thought: I want that.” Not long after that, she entered competitions in Staphorst and Dalfsen. “My parents soon realized that this was something I not only wanted, but I was also good at it. That’s how it became more serious.”
When she was thirteen, she won the regional championship of North-East Netherlands and she was allowed to participate in the Dutch championship. “There I securely ended in the middle ranking, which was really good for that age.” But her march stopped abruptly when the doctors discovered a severe injury. “I had back problems for a really long time and I was seeing a physical therapist, but nothing worked. It only got worse. I went to the doctor and said: ‘just make scans of everything, because I am done with it’. The result was that I had a double hernia.” She was no longer allowed to ride motocross. “That was hard, especially mentally. Suddenly everything I lived for was taken away. I had rehabilitation for sixteen weeks and I was hardly allowed to move, but the strange part was that I got even more pain in my back.”
Eventually it did not turn out to be a hernia. “A different doctor looked at the same pictures and he told me that a large part of my spine was crumbled. It probably happened due to all these different sports activities that I used to do, that involved me having a different posture every time. The only solution: sports, exercise, making your muscles stronger. Then they’ll catch the blows. I still feel pain, but I manage to live with it.” Mandy was allowed to exercise again and after a long period she got the green light from the doctor: she could ride motorbikes again. “The feeling that went through me can’t be explained in words. Intense happiness.”
Mandy started slow, after a year she entered her first race again. “My best friends came with me to the track that first time and my parents literally said: our Mandy is back.” She drove excellent, because a week later she was called by the motocross association. “If I wanted to represent the Netherlands during the European Championship! I couldn’t wish for a better comeback.” The European Championship was a success: Mandy ended thirteenth. During the Dutch Championship she ended seventh.
Mandy had a lot of support from her family. “They join me everywhere. My little brother hands me stuff during the race, my mother prepares the food and does the laundry and my dad makes sure that my motor runs perfect. On competition days, my dad and I are one team. After a race he’s just as happy or grumpy as I am. For them it was hard adapting to my rehabilitation years. Suddenly we couldn’t be found at the motocross track and we had to look for a different way to spend our time.”
Joining the World championship
If she ever gets scared on her motorbike? “Not really. Well, this year I did get run off my motorbike. My head flew by a tree with two centimetres to spare. The second race at that track did make me ride a bit more careful while passing that exact spot. But actually you shouldn’t be thinking about the risks too much. That only shuts you down.” Coming season she is allowed to participate at the National Championship again. “It’s truly amazing! My goal for this season is to ride in the top 10 during the European Championship and top 5 during the National Championship.” Her absolute dream: to participate in the world championship. “That’s a complete different level. Now I have a new and stronger motorbike, so maybe it will be possible in a few years’ time. But for now I am happy with what I’ve accomplished. Not just for me: everyone is giving it a 100%. Almost every weekend we are at the cross track. This is how our family is supposed to be.”
Hielke Jan Borger
Foto: Eddy Koedijk