A seamless move from the ice to the mud for Cowichan’s Haugen

The multi-talented Grace Haugen doesn’t have much trouble switching from one extreme to another.

Near the top of her long list of hobbies are the vastly different pursuits of motocross and figure skating. She admits it used to be "weird" to go from one sport to another, but she has gotten used to it.

"Not really now, but before it was," she said. "You have to be all graceful [in figure skating], and [motocross] is when you get dirty."

The 11-year-old Maple Bay Elementary student, who recently landed her first axel on the ice, had a phenomenal 2014 in the mud, winning the Westshore Motocross Track’s junior girls (under 15) championship and placing third in the boys 65cc division. Eleven riders earned points in the girls series, while 33 did so in the 65cc class.

Haugen first rode a bike in August 2012, inspired after seeing her first races the previous month.

"We went to watch the pros race in Washougal, Washington, and the pro women were also there, and I asked my dad on the way home if I could do that," she recalled.

Her dad, Curt, a former champion racer himself, who is now Grace’s coach and mechanic, was shocked when she suggested it.

"I didn’t know she’d ever want to," he said. "It was the strangest thing."

It didn’t hurt that their next-door neighbour just happens to own Shane’s Excavating, and was able to build Grace a track in her backyard. Just like that, a champion was born. She liked it the first time she tried it, running the bike until it ran out of gas.

Off the track, Grace also competes in tennis, learning from South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club pro Art Hobbs. She has figure skated since she was five, under coach Lorraine Francisty, and also does cross-country, field hockey and volleyball at school, as well as playing piano and ukulele. She can go from one hobby to the next, tirelessly.

"I can play any sport all day," she said. "I like them all."

Motocross is a hard sport, Curt emphasizes. It requires more physical strength than most observers expect.

"Motocross is about doing everything on the track as fast as possible," he said.

There is an element of danger to the sport, which Curt and Grace understand. Grace’s parents make sure she has respect for the equipment and the track. She admits that she does feel nervous at times, particularly at the starting line, and then in the last two laps.

And it can get scary on the track, something she admits with a grin is just part of the fun.