Tahlia Marsh’s BMX story is similar to most others in the sport. And it’s not. Find out more about this inspirational member of the BMXA Family.
Feature PIC: Craig Dutton Photography
Tahlia Marsh’s BMX story is similar to most others in the sport. And it’s not.
Marsh, 15, got into BMX racing by following the lead of her older brothers, Nick and Josh (below).
Starting as a 7-year-old in her last year as a sprocket, frothing every time she got to the track, enjoying riding with her family and new friends, Marsh (below, centre) was like most other young BMX kids.
This is the story of a remarkable young woman.
Growing up, Marsh played a number of sports, continuing to follow her brothers around, joining in where she could but it was on the soccer field where she shone.
“I played soccer and was always in a boys’ team,” Marsh explained.
“I enjoyed it and played up until two years ago when I had to choose – BMX or soccer.
“There just wasn’t the time to do both at the level I wanted. I liked BMX more, I trained harder for it. I loved it.”
Which brings us back to the bike and a step up to the highest level a rider of Marsh’s age can take on – the UCI BMX World Championships.
Her first foray onto the big stage was in 2017 at the world’s in Rock Hill, South Carolina in the USA. She raced in the 14yrs girl’s event and made it all the way to the semi-finals. It was a step up in class and an age away from her home town of Grafton, but it was the extra kick she needed to take another huge step forward in her BMX career.
“I learned so much at my first world championships,” Marsh, pictured above with mum Jenny and dad Grant at Rock Hill, said.
“I learned how big a sport and an event it is. I knew there were so many girls out there that were just so fast. I knew I needed to train harder and spend more time at the track.”
And so, she did. Personal training sessions at the gym. Road sprints on the bike. Track sessions at her local, the Clarence Valley BMX club. Gates at home, where her dad had installed a Pro-Gate on a BMX track he had built, that her brothers have now slowly morphed into a motocross track.
But in a country town, with few peers to train alongside, Marsh did it almost always alone. Grafting. Focussing. Striving. Inspired by what potentially lay ahead and at the same time an inspiration for her community.
A future role model for young girls. And boys. Heck, to be fair, Tahlia Marsh is a role model NOW.
Marsh is a proud young Indigenous woman.
“My dad, he’s Aboriginal. He grew up in a town full of Indigenous people. People who might not have had the opportunities I now have,” Marsh says, showing maturity well beyond her years.
“It just goes to show, whatever your background, you can make it in sport.”
That brings us to this year’s world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.
If the previous year’s event in Rock Hill was far removed from Grafton, the Azerbaijani capital is a planet away.
Determined to get there, Marsh continued to train and race. She won the 2A plate behind Cairns’ Shannon Petre at the national championships in Bunbury, earning a $3000 scholarship from Buchanan NextGen, the program generously put together by multiple world champion and dual Olympian Caroline Buchanan. It was a godsend.
“We struggle as a family with money because of all the travel with BMX,” Marsh said, without a hint of complaint.
“My dad works hard as a concreter and mows lawns. My mum’s a receptionist. They’re always helping at the (BMX) club too. Dad does track maintenance and mum does just about everything around. Whatever they need to.
“But it’s hard and I probably wouldn’t have gone to world’s if it wasn’t for Caroline and NextGen.”
Along with the much-needed funding, Buchanan was a constant source of tactical support for Marsh, a sounding board before and during the competition.
“We sent Caroline messages back and forwards and she’d send tips and advice,” Marsh said.
“She’d send me videos to watch and learn from. I don’t have many elite training options here at home, so I took advantage of it.”
So off to the other side of the world she went, unsure of what to expect but confident she could improve on her efforts in 2017.
“Baku was amazing. To see the different cultures is an awesome experience and something I loved. It made me appreciate home so much too.
“The racing was different this time though. I knew it would be. I’d prepared well and was confident. I knew if I rode as well as I could I was a chance for a plate.”
And ride well she did. All the way to the final and a sixth-place finish. W6. The sixth best rider in the world for her age.
It’s a long way from solo sessions on the backyard gate and lonely sprints up a quiet Grafton street.
WATCH THE RACE BELOW with video via BMXLIVETV.
Now the country girl, mentored by a dual Olympian, and with the knowledge of what it takes to go up against the best in the world is a role model in her own right. Marsh has advice for those in her community, the indigenous community, and those outside of it too.
“Definitely try something. Try BMX and if you enjoy it have a crack,” she says.
“At our club (Clarence Valley) there are so many talented kids. So many kids with ability.
“I hope any indigenous kid, or any kid really, who wants to try our sport, does.
“Don’t let things hold you back. It’s such a good sport.”
And there, from Tahlia Marsh, a 15-year-old year 9 student from Grafton High in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, is a message for us all: Don’t hold back. Have a crack.
IF YOU WANT TO JOIN A BMX CLUB, OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES, THERE’S MORE INFO HERE.
Pics: Craig Dutton Photography, Buchanan NextGen, Tahlia Marsh