Jill Kintner: The Challenge of Change
From humble beginnings in Washington State, Jill Kintner has grown into one of the best BMX and downhill riders in the world. Jill’s professional BMX career began when she was 14, and progressed into winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Jill’s abilities extend beyond BMX, evident in her progression into downhill and slalom mountain biking. Jill has racked up 15 elite national championships titles across 5 disciplines.
From Jill’s beginnings in BMX and move to mountain biking, there has been a lot of hard work. The praise Jill receives for being a hard worker and a determined athlete, are certainly warranted. She exemplifies where natural talent and dedication can take you, and should be a role model for all aspiring professional sport stars.
When did you get your first coach for BMX?
BMX was a bit of non-traditional sport, therefore coaches weren’t that common. I got my first official coach the year I went for my first Olympic medal, thanks to Red Bull. Before that, my dad steered the ship in the early years and my now husband Bryn (also a pro Downhiller) taught me everything about cornering and riding a mountain bike :). As a professional, I was always actively watching, experimenting, riding a lot, and figuring stuff out with other riders. It was a community learning effort, as much as individual learning.
Do you still remember or use any of the advice they gave you?
Yeah, of course. Greg Romero was my coach, who was a former bmx champion turned coach. He was a bit raw, but fun and had a ton of passion and personal experience. He used to tell me to “play it primal”, which means to use instinct and be present. That was good advice, and I actually wrote it on my glove at one point.
As you progressed into professional racing, I am sure the level of coaching also improved. Were there any means by which you used to decide which coach was going to be best for your progression? What advice would you give someone to help them choose a coach which will be right for them?
In both bmx and mountain biking, coaching is a bit rare. I don’t have much advice for people on actual professional coaching. I was really self-motivated; I surrounded myself with faster riders, did baseline testing for physiology and heartrate zones, and hired a trainer for the gym. You got to spend money to make money, and I think a lot of people don’t get that.
Skills coaching would have been awesome, but then again having a buddy with an iPhone in slow motion was one of the best tools. I think having a network for rehab, massage, nutrition, etc. is also really key to bettering your performance. There is no success without some struggle, and those struggles will be what defines someone. I had a blown out knee leading into the Olympics, and just ice bathed every day, modified my gym routines not to hurt myself more; this eventually led to a bronze medal.
With the progression into professional events, did you notice a larger mental strain on yourself? If so, how did you deal with this?
For me it was seamless because I had competed all my life, but I needed more ways of managing problems and strategy for dealing with fear or adversities. Working your mind game is just as important as anything else.
I had a sports psychologist that helped me, plus I would practice winning daily by pretending my toughest rival was there in practice, and building the scenario vividly of the competition moment, with all my senses, feelings, and timers. Therefore, putting yourself in that competitive headspace, and getting used to competing is beneficial to your performance.
Has your preparation changed over time with new techniques and technology?
Just a little more sports science based, with the addition of technology such as heartrate monitors, etc. I know my body real well, therefore I go by feel. I often go by feel in warm ups and areas like this, because it can be stressful if you are so linear with everything and can’t adapt on the fly. I like to just be grateful for opportunities, and do my bed, trusting in all the hard work I did previously. I think the nerves now aren’t what they used to be, I know I’m a good rider, and don’t have to worry about outcomes.
Will you go back to focussing on BMX closer to the 2016 Olympic Games? If so, when will you start transitioning into a more BMX focussed training program and how will this change your current training program?
Nope. I’m done racing BMX. I haven’t really touched it since the 2008 games in Beijing. I accomplished what I wanted, and am happy out in the woods on a mountain bike. I’d love to help for the 2016 games or beyond with the team or media in any way I can, if they want me to help, but I’ve been pretty busy with my current ventures in downhill.