Published
Dec 8, 2022

Words
Mandy Lamont

Photos
Nick Waygood
Clint Trahan

Born and bred in Canberra, Sian started racing motocross when she was eight along with her younger brother Kai. Stopping for financial reasons, she didn’t have a sport in early high school for a few years until Kai started mountain biking, getting into downhill. Kai was racing for a year or two before Sian got into it. Not really interested, her family kept encouraging her until she finally gave in, and loved it.

Getting into mtb

Getting her first downhill bike for Christmas 2014. By February 2015 Sian was racing Nationals at Thredbo followed by National Champs in Bright. Coming second in both! Doing a bunch of racing and improving a lot, she went on to win National Champs the following year. Qualifying her for Worlds. In her last year as a junior Sian raced the World Cup in 2016. Racing at Fort Williams, Cairns, and even though she injured herself in Andorra she ended up winning the World Cup series as a junior.

“It just snowballed from there,” she tells me on a telephone conversation. Between the National Enduro Champs where she came second, and the final Crankworx of the year in Rotarua. Motivated after her injury in Andorra, she spent a lot of time in the gym and on the wind trainer slaving away. “After that something switched where it was like, I’m going to give this a proper go. There’s been lots of highs and lows, a few injuries and some really good results along the way” Sian explains.

Photo Nick Waygood

The crash

One of the lows came in the form of a massive crash while training at Stromlo on July 15th 2021. “I don’t remember much but I was found unconscious, lying over a berm. I’d punctured my lungs, broke ribs, had a brain injury and hematoma to my eye socket and cheekbone. I broke my wrist and tore the ligaments in my thumb along with a few other minor injuries. That was really hard to come back from. It was a long recovery and I went through a lot of good and bad throughout the recovery.

I felt like I was coming good after three or four months. Seeing a lot of improvements. Starting to do more, then I hit another wall and got worse again. My doctors told me that I had post-concussion syndrome. Where my symptoms like short-term memory loss, trouble speaking and sleeping, chronic fatigue, along with headaches and general brain fog come back or are long-lasting”.

Getting back on the bike

Getting back on the bike when she was physically able to. After three months Sian started riding the fire roads. Competing in a few local races before she was ready, she raced the national downhill champs, but wasn’t 100%. “I didn’t race as well as I would have liked to but that was a big learning experience,” Sian reveals.

“Crankworx in Whistler was my first proper race 13 months after my crash, and it was my first race where I actually felt ready to race again.”

Not wanting to make the wrong decision and knowing she wasn’t ready to put herself in a pressure situation. Sian turned down her spot on the World Cup team in 2022. A week later her YC team manager asked if she wanted to go to Crankworx in Whistler! “It’s a race that I can choose how I approach it mentally. I thought it’s a really good way for me to get back into racing, see how I’m going and where my speeds at. So I went there with no expectations. I thought let’s just try and get a top 10 result.

Crankworx Whilstler

Getting there I had a really good week. Meeting everyone from YT, my head was in a good place and I was in a good place. I did Air Downhill first and got fourth! It was my first ever race like that and I was really shocked. The second race was the Canadian Open Downhill and I qualified second. A huge shock again. It wasn’t really a great run for me, but we got down.

For the finals, I was like let’s just try and win this because I really felt like my speed was there to have a good result. I was 0.6 of a second off Tracey (Hannah) which was just mind-blowing! Tracey is five times champion there. She’s won that race 5 years in a row and no one has come close to her and I was so close.”

“Just to be close to her at her home was incredible. She definitely deserved that win at Cairns, she hadn’t really won at home yet, so I’m really pumped that she actually won that one. But I definitely fought for it. It was nice to know that my speeds there, I’m happy with the people I’m surrounded by and I’m just in a really good place at the moment. It’s nice having a good team behind me. The guys at YT have been nothing but amazing. Signing me just after my brain injury, they’ve been patient with me through all this. I was a huge risk to them and it’s really nice to have some really good results behind me.”

New life perspective

“It was a really tough 13 months, but it’s changed my whole perspective on life. Without sounding really cliche, it’s made me appreciate the small things. Really listen to my body and be smart with the decisions I make. And just be kind, be happy and put things into perspective.”

“That’s why I’m racing well at the moment. My attitude to racing is different and the way I approach my racing is different. I’m a smarter racer, but I’m also much happier doing what I’m doing and I know what works for me. I know my systems and I know my processes. I’m trusting that and I’m enjoying it and that makes such a big difference when it comes to good results.”

Putting Sian A'Hern first

Starting a coaching business in 2021, Sian was mentoring a few local kids when her mum told her she could make a job out of it, and it took off really quickly. Disappointed with herself after getting second place at National Downhill Champs. Sian was frustrated with the amount of time she had on the bike due to work commitments. A full-time personal trainer with a growing coaching business and just life in general, it was becoming a difficult balance. “Coming second led me to make the decision to leave my full-time job as a PT. I started to commit to more coaching, but I really just wanted to put myself and my riding first, and grow my brand.”

“That’s why this year’s been full of trying different things. It’s been such a cool year because of one decision I made. It was a really scary decision initially, but it’s been nothing but great. No regrets.”

“I’ve had so much more creative space in my brain and lots of room to make things better and bigger. With more time for training, my riding is improving. I was never going to improve if I kept doing what I was doing. The level in our sport is always growing. You need to put a lot more energy into it if you want to actually make it.”

When I had my full-time job, riding felt like a chore because I was trying to do that full-time as well. Now that I have way more time and space for it, I just enjoy it even more. And I realise why I love it” Sian beams.

Everything happens for a reason

Believing everything happening for a reason, Sian’s had three major injuries in her career. “They haven’t been easy to come back from, but I learned how to come back better each time. You learn a lot about yourself as an athlete and as a person after an injury. A break isn’t always bad, so you just kind of enjoy the time off and get back to it when you can.”

Recovering from a brain injury

With broken bones Sian didn’t need any help to come back, but it was different with her brain injury.  “I was trying so hard for so long to come back, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be myself again” she tells me. Becoming frustrated, she got stuck in a pretty deep hole and her doctors recommended she see a psychologist. “He quite literally changed my life. I never thought I needed one until I had one. And I still see him regularly just to keep my head in the right place. To help make difficult decisions or just think things through. He was the reason I left my job and all of those good decisions I’ve made. He’s been there to help me make them which has been a really important part of my success over the last few months.”

In a year of trying a bunch of different stuff and figuring out what she likes the most. Down Hill’s got her heart and in 2023 Sian is planning to race the World Cup circuit.  Wishing you all the best Sian.

Check out Sian’s Coaching website here

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1st: Tracy Hannah, Troy Brosnan, 2nd: Conor Fearon, Sian A’Hern, 3rd: Louise Ferguson, Mick Hannah, Photo Clint Trahan

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