For many athletes competing in their chosen sport is enough to fulfil their dreams but for some it is more then that, its about pushing themselves to be the best, to win, to podium, to crave the recognition of winning a race. Isla Short falls into the latter, the 19 year old Scottish girl has experienced the highs of winning and the lows of believing her career was over almost before it had began.
In 2013 while out training on the road, Isla was hit by a car in the Scottish town of Glentress. A broken collarbone and 2 serious compression factors of the spine saw her off the bike for 8 weeks and the thought of never being able to race again,
“ I thought my career was over, I really struggled with the thought I’d never ride my bike again after the crash, there was a period in that time I had to get checked out to see if I’d ever walk again.”
But a fight back to fitness saw Short take the 2014 British Junior National title at Hopton Woods, 6th at the Junior UEC Mountain Bike Championships in Germany and top the National rankings. Things were on the up again. Signing for OMX for the 2015 season proved Isla was back at the top of her game.
“I had an amazing 2014, I dominated the British Scene. I was consistently placed top 10 in the World so everything was just going the way I wanted it to and to sign for a team like OMX, I couldn’t ask for anything else”
A blistering early 2015 season saw podiums in both The South African Cup and the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival and a strong showing in her home round (Cathkin Braes) in the British Cycling National Series looked like it was going to be a perfect start to a pro career but a crash in practice at the Lenzerheide World Cup round in July saw those dreams come crashing down for a second time.
A broken and dislocated collarbone and another serious compression fracture in her back saw Isla off the bike for some 12 weeks, that must have felt like that’s it, game over, How can I come back from this again?
“A new team and this happened again. I’d been ill for a few months leading up to Lenzerheide, I couldn’t shake it off which became frustrating but after the crash I was weirdly relieved about what had happened. It was a kind of relief I suppose, I’d be able to sort everything out but that was before I found out how serious the accident was. Finding out my back was broken was really tough and I struggled for a while, I needed a break from the sport.”
So that was the season over just as you had begun to get the results you wanted?
“My back took longer to heal then I expected so that meant the season was all but over, I had an option to ride a few late season races but my head wasn’t in the right place to ride my bike”
Having to deal with a second serious injury in a short career obviously takes it’s toll on an athlete competing on a World stage, did Isla find it a challenge to get back in the right frame of mind to compete again?
“ I think people who watch high-level sport don’t always understand its not always the physical injuries that prevent you from competing but the mental side. The expectations of you, your team and the sponsors’ expectations of you winning races can be the difficult part of being competitive.”
Do you think teams, sponsors, the media, fans expect certain athletes to win everytime they take to the start line?
“ The more you win, the more you’re expected to win. I remember when I was 2nd year Junior, people had already predicted the podium, with me on the top step. Its an extra pressure to perform all the time”
Would you ever question your race if you didn’t get the results you were expecting?
“ When I won the Nationals in 2014, at Hopton Woods, I wasn’t happy because I only won by 2.1/2 minutes and not more. That was the kind of pressure I put myself under all the time"
Novus OMX has renewed your contract for another year and Annie Last has signed this year. I would imagine that has been a big boost to both the team and you?
“ I’m quite excited about it. I know I can learn so much from her, she’s been there and done it but she’s pretty level headed so she is good to talk to about the sport and coming back from serious injury.”
“I have 3 mentors on the team now, Annie, Mariske(Strauss) and Cherie(Vale) who can teach me so much. It helps being part of a pro team, i only have to think about my race and not have the stress of everything else connected with it. I just do my job.”
So after a few tough years, Isla’s fortunes are starting to turn for the better with new goals to focus on.
“ A new season, I feel pretty good so its time to look to the future. We have the Commonwealth Games and the MTB Euros in Glasgow in a couple of years time which is a bit target for me and then the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 as my long term goal."