Mountain biking: Kennett battles on

By Cameron Leslie

A helmet-shattering crash during a lead-in event didn't stop Northland's Jonothan Kennett from excelling at the New Zealand Downhill Nationals in Rotorua.

The 15-year-old Tauraroa Area School student recovered from the crash, where he slid sideways off a 15-foot jump, to place third in the under-17 division at the nationals a few weeks later.

"Luckily I had a neck brace," explained Waiotira's Kennett, "because [the helmet] pushed right into my neck when I crashed. I got lucky because one guy ended up going off over the handle bars, and ended up breaking a few vertebrae [at the same pre-nationals event]."

Kennett said he thankfully had shed the memory of his earlier crash, and replaced the broken helmet, as he went into nationals earlier this month.

He said on the practice day for nationals he felt better as the day went on before a mechanical problem caused him to lose a few precious practice runs.

"My first couple of runs I was having trouble with the track and it was real rough.

I had a few little offs, from making mistakes [but] my last couple runs of the day went nice.

"I ended up doing the seals on the forks on my bike and had to get them done so missed out on a few runs which would have helped."

Kennett admitted that even though he was happy with his placing, he could have raced tactically better.

"During seeding run I pushed too hard and seeded first," said Kennett. "Then on my race run I pedalled hard and did everything well, maybe a couple of mistakes at the top.

"I was first for a bit, so got to sit in the hot seat. But then the next guy that came down went three seconds faster."

The nationals in Rotorua attracted not only the best age group athletes, but also the professional elite of the sport.

Kennett couldn't help compare himself to them after having a motivation to race at least one pro-elite race in his lifetime.

"The track was three minutes 12 second, pro-elites were doing it in 2.40, [but] there's a bit of a difference between me and the pro guys. They're a bit bigger than me and done a few more races than me.

"I would like to do some top races like that but I've got to balance it out with my rugby as well. In winter the rugby season here is in the world cup season [in Europe]. If, in five years' time, I was still doing well I could maybe fit in one race. But, I'll see where I'm at," laughed Kennett.

- Northern Advocate

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