BEYOND THE ORDINARY UK EDITION JUNE 2023, £3.50 SUBSCRIBE: getredbulletin.com At home with BEN STOKES, the saviour of English Test cricket Captain Marvel
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IN WITH THE NEW CONTRIBUTORS
When this month’s cover star Ben Stokes (page 32) took over as skipper of the England cricket team, he didn’t set out only to take trophies. Instead, he created a new way of approaching the game, not before seen in its 146-year history. The Red Bulletin joins Stokes at home at a time when his new way of winning matches is restoring glory to English cricket, and future-proofing the oldest form of the game in the process.
Photographer Celia D Luna (page 44) became part of another kind of sporting innovation when she shot female Bolivian skaters wearing traditional dress while riding bowls. These cholitas are challenging negative stereotypes and reclaiming a part of their heritage that was in danger of being lost.
Then we join BMX ace Kriss Kyle (page 52) who, with some remarkable blue-sky thinking, takes his sport to a whole new level – completing top-tier tricks while suspended from a huge hot-air balloon somewhere over southwest England.
(page 62) who, at just 20 years old, is ready to take on her idol to become an Olympic champion.
Enjoy the issue.
The London-based journalist had her own adventure following BMX star Kriss Kyle on his Don’t Look Down project. “I went across the West Country and Midlands over the course of 15 months to chat with him and some of his closest mates,” she says. “They had to fight so hard to make the project happen; seeing them take flight in the end was such a surreal, euphoric moment.” Page 52
The Irish photographer splits his time between London and New York these days, but he took his first trip to Hartlepool to shoot Ben Stokes for this month’s cover. “I didn’t know much about cricket before the shoot,” he says. “But it’s clear that Ben is one of the best. He welcomed us into his home and happily allowed me to gaffer-tape background papers all over his living room – now I’m a fan.” Page 32
Paw show: our cover star Ben Stokes mixes Crufts and cricket for photographer Neil Gavin. Page 32
THE RED BULLETIN 07 NEIL GAVIN (COVER)
70% o f t h e w o m e n ’ s s w i m w e a r c o l l e c t i o n i s m a d e o f
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10 Gallery: Hawaii’s patron saint of surfing makes history (again); heli-diving high jinks in Sydney; spinning tales in South Africa, and bugged-out BMX in Tennessee
17 Once upon a rhyme: four influential tracks from rapper Macklemore’s formative years
18 Crawl space: meet the London collective who pooled their ideas to promote inclusive swimming
21 Way to go: trail guides crafted from meticulous research, local knowledge… and paper
22 Puff daddy: this digital artist offers a cosy perspective on reality
24 Prised protection: the Shellmet – grown by scallops, moulded by experts, worn by fishermen
26 Jayda G
The Canadian DJ and producer talks about her new album and how she found inspiration close to home
28 Greg Nance
From beating addiction to smashing marathon challenges, endurance has been the key for this US athlete
30 Alexi Mostrous
The investigative journalist and podcaster on the quest for the truth and the dangers of misinformation
32 Ben Stokes
Home truths from the sports star who’s always ready when duty calls – on the cricket pitch as England captain, or in the melee of gaming
44 Celia D Luna
This photographer’s Cholitas Bravas project tells of female empowerment and cultural pride – on four wheels
52 Kriss Kyle
Strange balloon sightings are on the rise. But this BMXer’s high-flying spectacle makes the others look flat
62 Aaliyah Powell
GB Taekwondo’s young contender is eyeing Olympic gold – and she’ll have to beat her hero to get there
73 All downhill from here: breaking mountain-bike descent records on Chile’s volcanic Ojos del Salado
79 Cue tips: how to pocket balls –and money – by mastering pool
80 Kicking back: FIFA’s women are ready to boss the game
81 Lord of the rigs: the Formula 1 simulator that’s way out in front
82 Mind how you go: targeting mental fitness for physical goals
84 Streets ahead: our edit of the best urban running gear you can buy
94 Essential dates for your calendar
98 Outdoors wisdom from Semi-Rad
THE RED BULLETIN 09 EISA BAKOS
52 Blown away: BMX ace Kriss Kyle reflects on his audacious Don’t Look Down project
HALEIWA, HAWAII, USA Day break
It used to be that you had to slay a dragon or banish the snakes from Ireland to earn yourself a name day. Then they upped up the entry requirements. In 2016, January 4 was declared ‘Carissa Moore Day’ in Hawaii to celebrate the inspirational career of its patron saint of surfing, only 23 at the time. Victory in this year’s Vans Triple Crown –here she is at stage one, the Hawaiian Pro – provided Moore’s third consecutive win in the contest, on top of five WSL titles and Olympic gold. Gotta be worth a whole weekend, right? redbullcontentpool.com
TREVOR MORAN/RED BULL CONTENT POOL DAVYDD CHONG
“Where are we going?” “Dunno. Just follow her.” OK, so Rhiannan Iffland’s spectacular ‘heli-dive’ into Sydney Harbour last October – just over a week before the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series hit the city – took more organisation than that. But after meetings with the pilot, recces of the harbour, careful planning of the launch etc, it was go, go, go for the Aussie six-time world champion. All that was left was some post-production editing from photographer Andy Green… Wait, you didn’t think there were really 14 Rhiannans? redbullcontentpool.com
JO’BURG, SOUTH AFRICA
King of spin
When signing up for spinning, double-check the Ts and Cs: nothing ruins a gym floor quicker than a few donuts in a modded BMW E30. Samkeliso ‘Sam Sam’ Thubane is no newbie to the tyreshredding variety: last September, he won Red Bull Shay’ iMoto (‘the Hollywood of Spinning’) a second time. “Earlier in the day, I wasn’t feeling well,” said the South African (above, right), who’d played guitar on the roof as his car spun, “but I think the smell of burning tyres is my medication, because once I got into the car I felt like myself.” Always read the label. redbullcontentpool.com
13 ANDY GREEN/RED BULL CONTENT POOL, TYRONE BRADLEY/RED BULL CONTENT POOL DAVYDD CHONG
EAST TENNESSEE, USA
Trial by fre
BMXers and fireflies share some similarities: both like outdoor spaces and are constantly on the move. On the other hand, the firefly grows up to 25mm in length, emits light and is a bug. Fireflies in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains only display the behaviour shown here during mating season (another difference?) in late spring. So photographer Robert Snow’s task of shooting Terry Adams, a flatland BMX pro – no ramps, no rails, no jumps – among the lustful Lampyridae was no walk in the park. But it was a ride in the forest. redbullcontentpool.com
ROBERT SNOW/RED BULL CONTENT POOL
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Return of the Mack
Grammy Award-winning rapper Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore, hit the big time in 2012 with Thrift Shop. The track, recorded with his regular music partner and producer Ryan Lewis, has had 1.7 billion views to date on YouTube. On Ben, his first solo album in six years, the father of three from Seattle takes a soulful look at what and who have made him the artist he is today. “I think it’s super-important to give people their flowers,” he says. “Some have no idea how appreciated they are.” Here, the 39-year-old rapper selects a handful of tracks that influenced his career. Ben is out now; macklemore.com
You Never Knew (1998)
“This song came out when I was maybe 15. It sets off [the Californian hip-hop collective’s] album Third Eye Vision in a way that’ll forever timestamp this art with my life. I was doing a lot of hallucinogenics and I’d go for walks and time them with the music. When the mushrooms kicked in, I’d sneak out of my house and walk around [Seattle] until 6am. It was such a spiritual experience for me.”
“OutKast opened my ears. The things they did sonically, [like] the mixes, the panning – the way their vocals went back and forth when you had headphones on – and the way they chop in terms of their raps, were extremely influential on who I became as an artist. This record was the soundtrack to Friday and Saturday nights. It’s nostalgic and victorious at the same time.”
Method Man feat Mary J Blige
I’ll Be There For You/ You’re All I Need To Get By (Puff Daddy Mix) (1995)
“In a way, this [record] was responsible for me starting to rap. Me and my best friend would walk to school, and he’d beatbox and I’d do Method Man’s part. It would become an imperative part of my process and upbringing… It made me think, ‘Maybe I should try to write my own stuff and see what can happen.’”
Mary Jane (1978)
“I first heard Mary Jane on the soundtrack of [1995 comedy movie] Friday, which exposed me to so much music I probably wouldn’t have been hip to as a hip-hop fan growing up without the internet. It’s perfection –the best weed-smoking song of all time. I remember listening to it while playing Mario Kart and GoldenEye. But the thing about weed and memory is, it usually cancels out the stories. So a specific memory? Hell, no.”
Seattle rapper shares four tracks that were pivotal to his education in music
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Scan the code to hear our Playlist podcast with Macklemore on Spotify
Keeping spirits afoat
This London collective are on a mission to take the solitary out of swimming and bring a sense of community to the pool
In a scene in Beyond the Blue, the 2017 documentary about London swimming club Swim Dem Crew, co-founders
Nathaniel Cole and Peigh Asante stand at the edge of a pool, addressing a class in the water. “I don’t actually care about swimming,” Cole tells the students with a chuckle, “it’s more about the people.” This surprising statement encapsulates the philosophy of Swim Dem Crew – a swimming club more interested in the power of community and connection than the strength of its members’ strokes.
It was swimming that introduced Cole and Asante 10 years ago. Cole has been swimming regularly since
Pooled experience: (top, from left) Swim Dem Crew’s Nathaniel Cole and Peigh Asante; for the two cofounders, swimming is the bomb
childhood, while Asante was a total novice who was advised to take it up after sustaining a running injury. Along with third co-founder Emily Deyn, a fellow member of running group Run Dem Crew, they decided to swim together in the evening.
As the weeks went by, people began requesting to join the three new friends on their weekly dips. They realised swimming was better as a group activity, and that there was a wider need for a social space for swimmers in London. Swim Dem Crew officially launched in 2013 with a simple mission: to bring people together in the water and get more people swimming.
For Cole, the experience of teaching swimming and getting
into the pool with friends each week has been transformative. The 32-year-old says that swimming has improved his mental health, helping him cope with the symptoms of his depression and anxiety. Now, Cole is committed to giving others that same gift through the club’s sessions.
“We always say Swim Dem is a place for people to come and find themselves,” he says. “We find that people go through big life changes around the time they come to Swim Dem. They might quit their job or break up with someone. It makes them more confident.”
A decade on from the founders’ first group session, Swim Dem Crew members still meet every Monday and Saturday – locations around London vary – to socialise in the water. “Swimming is a great way to connect with people,” says Cole. “It’s a great leveller; it makes people shed their ego. People build connections, make friendships and create deep bonds quicker than, say, if we were playing football or at a pub.”
To join Swim Dem Crew, you don’t have to be able to swim a single length; the collective provides space and support for every level of swimmer, working to make the sport more diverse and accessible.
“I want all people, especially Black or Brown people [who, according to research published by the sport’s governing body Swim England in 2020, swim less than the national average], to have access to swimming and everything it can unlock in the world,” says Cole.
“Swim Dem is a judgementfree space; the pool just happens to be where we meet. You can come and swim 2,000 metres or you can swim two – it’s the fact you’re coming that’s important.” swimdemcrew.co.uk
SWIM DEM CREW
18 THE RED BULLETIN SWIM DEM CREW LOU BOYD
$4 MILLION IN LIFETIME DONATIONS
“There was no internet when I was growing up, so that made it a lot easier to stay outside,” says Pete Kennedy, explaining his affinity with the wilderness of his home state, South Carolina, and its northern namesake. Now 52, the lifelong kayaker and mountain biker grew up in a time when kids were free to roam with only a crinkled-up map jammed into a back pocket for guidance.
It’s this experience that he’s helping to bring back. Since Kennedy founded the business in 2009, the Pisgah Map Company – named after the national forest in North Carolina – has produced 10 beautifully detailed maps of trails in North and South Carolina as well as neighbouring Georgia and Tennessee.
This is not merely a nostalgia trip, though; each map has been meticulously created using data sourced online and – crucially –honed by first-hand experience. “We’ve been exploring this area for more than 30 years as avid mountain bikers, hikers, kayakers and runners, which is why our maps are more than just data on paper,” Kennedy says. “They’re the culmination of decades of local knowledge.”
Navigation is in Kennedy’s blood; in his day job, he teaches on geographic information systems at a local community college, building on skills he learnt in graduate school where he first used data analysis tools to explore forest ecology in the late ’90s.
Today, Kennedy creates maps based on popular trails that he feels deserve a better navigational tool. The first step is to define the scale and detail of a map. Next, he trawls the internet for data from existing maps, government surveys, personal blogs, and apps such as Strava. Then it’s out into the field to add and amend based on real-life experience.
“I think I can make a better map of about anywhere,” he says. “When I do the field work, I really get out and see the
Off the beaten path
By crafting paper maps of his favourite trails, one outdoor veteran is putting IRL experiences and connections in the pockets of fellow explorers
places, the little nooks and crannies. It gives me such an intense connection with the place.” After that comes decisions on fonts and artwork – Kennedy’s creations could just as easily be hung on a wall as left in your glove box.
Currently it takes a year to make one map, but Kennedy estimates he could get this down to three months if able to work on the project full-time. Demand is growing – the Pisgah Map Company has sold to stores two states away – but its founder thinks paper maps
will remain a niche item. “I don’t think they’ll ever replace GPS,” he says, “though I do think there’s a place for them.”
Kennedy has even received emails from users relating how his maps had helped them connect to their new home. “Paper maps give a sense of place,” he explains. “They let you see the whole area, not just a little blue dot on a small screen. This helps you understand that, OK, on the other side of this ridge is a river and a lake. It’s real.”
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Route cause: Kennedy (top) and his lovingly crafted paper maps
ANDRÉS REISINGER City in pink
With his uncannily tactile creations, this Argentinian digital artist conjures an alternative reality you might wish was real
On a New York street corner, enormous puffs of fur sprout from a storefront like fluffy fungus. In Paris, an entire building is enveloped in a billowing, gossamer shroud. In Rome, a gigantic swathe of delicately ruched silk engulfs a doorway. In Tokyo, a shop is consumed by a huge, bulging, blancmange-like mass. Beside Instagram pictures of each, commentators ask excited questions: “How long is this here for?!”, “Where is this?”, “What if it rains?”
But the weather will never be a problem for these surreal creations, a project by digital artist Andrés Reisinger titled Take Over. Despite looking extraordinarily realistic (and temptingly tactile), no one will see them in person, because they only exist online. If viewers
feel like they’ve been tricked, that’s exactly what Reisinger intended. “That’s the whole point, isn’t it?” he says. “To be a little uncanny; to question whether ‘real’ has any relevance. Everything we experience is real, and so is Take Over.”
While Reisinger, originally from Argentina, has tailored the personality of each “installation” to its location – Paris is “refined and quite minimalistic”, Tokyo “fun, entertaining and explosive”, Rome “the epitome of many eras of history and glamour” – all are rendered in the same, distinctive baby pink, which, Reisinger says, “is the colour of our organs, something that makes all humans alike”.
This nod to common experience speaks to his belief that digital art allows one to democratise an often exclusive space and remove barriers to access, because everyone will experience the images in the same way, wherever they are: “My desire was to prove how digital art can be used to bring people together in a shared moment… It is indeed possible to use art in a way that can be enjoyed by everyone, from disparate locations.”
Ultimately, in transforming recognisable physical locations into something hyperrealistic yet also dreamlike, Reisinger blurs the boundaries between the digital and the real. But he sees Take Over more as an exercise in challenging our interpretation of reality itself.
“Reality is a funny word,” he says. “It limits our perceptions and experiences greatly. To me, people’s assumptions, doubts, questions and engagement are a real experience shared as a community from every part of the world. Whether [the artwork] is tangible or not becomes a secondary point. It creates a moment that we all live together, and there’s nothing more real than that.”
See Take Over on Instagram: @reisingerandres
All the fun of the fur: (top) Reisinger provides a London store with fringe benefits; suitably fluffy clientele for a cosy-looking New York business
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Not only are scallops delicious, their shells are helping improve safety and reduce environmental waste thanks to this innovative design company
On the shores of the village of Sarufutsu, on Hokkaido island in Japan, three fishermen stand next to their boats. These men are hardy seafarers, accustomed to spending hours on the open water and tackling the harshest of conditions. The battered rubber overalls they wear are as you might expect, but not their headgear: helmets in pretty pastel shades of delicate baby pink and sky blue. The trio are modelling the Shellmet, an elegant and minimalist hard hat not only inspired by but made from the scallops these men farm every day.
“The scallop is the shellfish most commonly eaten in Japan,” says Masatoshi Usami,
We asked ourselves, ‘What if we could turn these scallop shells into a new resource instead of waste?’”
The Shellmet, developed by TBWA\Hakuhodo in collaboration with Koushi Chemical Industry Inc and Tokyo startup Quantum, provides an answer. Discarded shells are sterilised before being crushed and mixed with recycled plastic to form a new material named Shellstic. This can then be moulded into helmets that take inspiration from the original shells.
“There are many ‘upcycled’ products in the world, but we aimed to go beyond that, to develop products with meaning and a story to tell,” says Shintaro Monden, VP of design at Quantum. “This is why we focused on biomimicry, which applies the mechanisms of the natural world to technological development. Various ‘designs’ in nature have been optimised for certain environments over many, many years by living organisms. In this case, the structure of scallops [has inspired] the Shellmet’s design, which incorporates the characteristic ribbed structure of a seashell.”
creative director at TBWA\ Hakuhodo, the design agency behind the Shellmet. “It’s also the shellfish that results in the most amount of waste.”
Indeed, in and around Sarufutsu – the northernmost village in Japan, with a total population of just 3,000 –approximately 40,000 tonnes of shells are generated annually, and these are a major cause of concern for locals. “In most cases, the shells are piled up in the open, like mountains,” says Usami. “There are the foul odours and contamination of soil and groundwater due to the leaching of heavy metals contained in some of the offal [the leftover part of the scallop after the ‘meat’ is removed].
This isn’t just a stylish design element – it actually improves the durability of the helmet by around 33 per cent compared with the traditional, smooth-surfaced kind, which is why its creators hope it won’t be limited to marine use. “Japan is globally known to experience natural disasters such as earthquakes,” says Usami, “so we wanted to extend the use of the helmet from purely fishing to a standard protection item for emergency responders, as well as other daily uses such as for bike riding or sports.”
For now, though, it’s the fishermen of Sarufutsu who will be both safe and chic as they weather the wind and waves off Japan’s north coast. tbwahakuhodo.co.jp/en/
24 THE RED BULLETIN JUNYA
Mer made: (top) the Shellmet provides protection for fishermen operating heavy machinery on choppy waters; the raw materials
TAGUCHI RACHAEL SIGEE
Spreading family values
The Canadian DJ and music producer took inspiration from her late father for her latest album and says the dancefloor is the perfect place to share stories of struggle
Words LOU BOYD Photography NABIL ELDERKIN
Jayda Guy – better known by her DJ moniker, Jayda G – enjoyed her big breakthrough on the dance music scene in 2017 thanks to a video of her high-energy Boiler Room set at that year’s Dekmantel Festival in Amsterdam. Before long, the Canadian DJ and music producer’s joyful soul-and-discoinfused house music, infectious enthusiasm and energetic dancing behind the decks had gone viral.
But anyone who listened closely to Guy’s sets could tell there was more to this DJ than good times. A qualified environmental toxicologist, she inserted natural sounds including the calls of orcas and other marine life into her early work, with the aim of starting conversations about the conservation issues close to her heart.
Now 34 and based in London, Guy’s latest music finds her shaking off the party persona and drawing her audience closer with a deeply personal release inspired her family. The album, Guy, features archive recordings of her late father telling his story as a young African American man making his way in a difficult world. “I wanted the album to be a blend of storytelling about the African American experience, death, grief and understanding,” she says. “It’s also about so many people who wanted more for themselves and went on a search to find that.”
Here, Guy talks to The Red Bulletin about how it felt to build an album around the memory of her father, and why dance music is the ideal medium for expressing complex emotions…
the red bulletin: Guy is more personal than your previous work. Was that a conscious decision?
jayda g: Yes. I feel like ‘Jayda G’ is pretty one-dimensional. She’s happy, she dances, she plays fun music, she’s very extroverted and bubbly… but there’s a whole other part of me, Jayda Guy, who’s superintrospective and tries really hard at life. I wanted to bring more of those elements of myself into my music.
Why did you structure it around archival recordings of your dad?
My dad passed when I was 10. He knew for about five years that he was sick, and when he didn’t have much longer he started recording videos about his life. Recently, around 20 years after his passing, I realised that so many of the stories my father told in those tapes would be good inspiration for songs and lyrics. That started a trajectory of digging into his videos and getting a better understanding of who he was and the kind of life he lived.
Tell us about him…
He was a Black man growing up in Kansas City in the ’50s, in what we would now call the ghetto. He grew up in poverty and knew he had to get out. He did that by enlisting in the army, and he served in Vietnam, stationed in Thailand. I always imagine him going from Kansas City, where he’d only [known] one type of life, and just being plopped into Thailand, a place that couldn’t be further or more different. From there, he became a night-time radio DJ in Washington DC, inadvertently got caught up in the 1968 race riots, and finally found a new life in
Canada with my mum. That really speaks to how adventurous my father was, and how he really wanted a better life for himself. My siblings and I are a product of that.
You’ve said Guy is for all the people “who wanted more for themselves” – what do you mean by that? This album is so much for people who have been oppressed and have not had easy lives. The older I get, the more I see that it’s a pretty remarkable thing to want something for yourself when you haven’t seen any examples of it in your community or your environment. Not a lot of people are able to do that, to envision a different life for themselves, but that’s what my father did. This record is for everyone who knows how that feels.
Why do you think dance music is a good vehicle for stories like this?
Dance music – specifically house music – came out of struggle, from the Black community in the States, and the LGBTQ community. They cultivated a sound that was a safe space. It was the sound of freedom in a lot of ways. When you have a genre with that essence, it has the power to make people listen. I try to find creative ways of using dance music to bring messages to the forefront.
What message do you hope people take away from this album?
Things will happen in your life, good and bad, and it’s your choice how they inform [your direction]. Looking at my father’s life, I like to think people will see he chose to be better, to try harder and learn from his mistakes and become a better person. He instilled that value system in me and my family, and it’s in this album.
What do you think your dad would have thought about his life story being shared through your music?
Oh my gosh, my family talk about this a lot. We joke that he’d be tooting his own horn a bit. But also we say he’d probably be amazed, happy and excited. Yeah, he’d be proud. Guy is out on Ninja Tune on June 9; Instagram: @jaydagmusic
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“Dance music became the sound of freedom in a lot of ways”
Playing the long game
Words NINA ZIETMAN Photography XIAOFANG SUSKITA
Greg Nance didn’t know if it was possible to run 5,079km across the United States – but he was willing to try. After all, the 34-year-old from Washington State is no stranger to endurance challenges. In 2014, he ran 250km across the Gobi Desert. Five years later, Nance completed the World Marathon Challenge, running seven marathons in seven continents over seven days. He has also set 37 Fastest Known Times (FKTs) around the globe.
So, on April 25, 2022, Nance set off from Long Island, New York. After 84 painful days and the equivalent of 120 marathons, he crossed the finish line in Ocean Shores on Washington’s Pacific Coast, the culmination of a decade-long dream. On the way, he raised more than $128,000 for the Run Far Foundation, the youth mental health charity he founded.
Yet, despite his accomplishments, Nance struggled with addiction as a young adult. “If you’d met me at 21, you’d just think, ‘This guy likes to party,’” he says. “You wouldn’t have assumed I had a problem.” Nance was a high-flying student; he set up his own non-profit while studying in Chicago and won a post-graduate scholarship at Cambridge, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But at the time he was self-medicating with alcohol and painkillers.
Running was key to pulling Nance out of his downward spiral, and it’s a lifeline he hopes will inspire others. This year he’s setting up the Run Far Club, a free after-school running programme, to encourage teenagers to train for a five-mile run while also
contributing to a community-based project, such as tackling climate change. To raise awareness of this, he’s taking on another endurance challenge this summer: the Salmon Runs, a series of world-first attempts along the historic salmon highways around Washington State, including a 342km run around the Puget Sound, one of the US’s largest fjord systems. Here, Nance explains how running saved his life…
the red bulletin: How did you first get into running?
greg nance: I started track running in high school, but baseball was my primary sport as a kid. I wanted to make the major leagues, partly because my hero – my grandpa Charlie – was never able to fulfil that dream. He was the best pitcher in Tennessee as a teenager, but then he had to go and fight in World War II. When I was 16, Charlie suffered a debilitating stroke. And right as I was losing my grandpa, I got injured. My elbow swelled up like a tennis ball – a huge red flag for any team looking for a young pitcher. So the dream wasn’t going to happen.
How did you cope?
I began self-medicating, first with malt liquor, then vodka. Before long, I was mixing in [opiate painkillers] Percocet and Vicodin. I had a chemical dependency; I thought I needed them just to feel normal.
What was the turning point? Despite the challenges, I graduated from college with flying colours. I had started a non-profit in college called Moneythink, which President Obama later named a ‘Champion of
Change’. I went on to study at Cambridge in the UK, but I was effectively blowing my stipend on alcohol and drugs. In November 2011, I missed my rent. The head academic officer said, “You’re a disgrace. If I could, I’d expel you.” That was when I realised I couldn’t continue like this. A month later, I ran my first 50K ultramarathon on the Jurassic Coast and finished 10th. It was like, “Boom! Here’s what my life can be without alcohol and drugs.”
What inspired you to run 5,079km across America?
At that finish line on the Jurassic Coast, I had a big smile on my face. I realised life could be so beautiful when I wasn’t stuck in alcohol and opiate land. In that moment, a vision came to me that someday I would run from New York to Seattle.
Is there a link between the addictive side of your personality and achieving these athletic feats? Totally. I can never quell those tendencies within me. Even when I was running across America, I began fantasising about painkillers. It was brutally difficult, but, with support, I realised I could channel that energy in a healthy direction. When I do, it’s a superpower. I think there’s a superpower within all of us. There’s the old adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. If you’re consistent, you can do powerful things.
What would you tell someone who wants to break negative habits?
When you’re going through a tough thing, whether that’s substance abuse or a mental health challenge, be kind to yourself. It’s easy to read about my story and think, “I can’t do that.” Don’t be discouraged. What small things can you do today to put yourself on a healthy path? Can you drink one more glass of water? Get to bed an hour earlier? Start small and build from there. You don’t have to run across the United States to be a better, stronger version of yourself. gregnance.org
The 34-year-old American ultrarunner and entrepreneur has battled with addiction, but he says it was facing his flaws that unleashed his superpower
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“I think there’s a superpower within all of us”
Truth and consequences
The investigative journalist and creator of smash-hit podcasts Sweet Bobby and Hoaxed ponders the dangers of the digital world and the rise of hallucinating chatbots
Words FLORIAN OBKIRCHER Photography BENEDIKT FRANK
If you’ve listened to only one new podcast recently, there’s a high chance Alexi Mostrous was behind it. In late 2021, the journalist launched Sweet Bobby, a six-part investigation of one of the UK’s most sophisticated cases of catfishing. The critically acclaimed podcast has attracted more than 11 million downloads and is currently being adapted for TV. Mostrous’s follow-up, Hoaxed, a thrilling dissection of how a fake satanic conspiracy spread online and destroyed the lives of hundreds of innocent people, was named The Guardian’s best podcast of 2022. Previously a barrister, Mostrous honed his journalistic skills as Head of Investigations at The Times before joining ‘slow news’ website and podcast provider Tortoise Media in 2019 to focus on audio storytelling. Here, he reveals how he finds stories that make listeners’ jaws drop, and what it takes to uncover the truth in a world of increasingly capable chatbots.
the red bulletin: The thread that runs through your podcasts is online abuse and manipulation. What do you find fascinating about the topic? alexi mostrous: It’s the gap between how our systems are set up to protect us in the physical versus the digital world. If someone assaults us on the street, there’s a process where police can gather evidence and investigate, but if someone carries out a similarly damaging assault online, there’s no real protection. And it’s only recently that the social media companies have started protecting their users. Our institutions and our society are forming behind where we are
technologically. Anything that falls into that gap interests me, because we live so much of our lives online.
Considering the speed of technological advancement, is the gap getting bigger or smaller?
I think the gap is shifting; we’re not standing still. It was in 2010 when Kirat [the protagonist in Sweet Bobby] was approached by her perpetrator on Facebook. Back then, Facebook was like: friend request, accept, friend request, accept… No one had a clue. Today, we’re all more cognisant of the risks. But, at the same time, there are things like [AI search engine] Bing or [AI chatbots] Bard and ChatGPT. It’s going to make misinformation and disinformation a massive problem.
In what way?
If you Google ‘Who assassinated JFK?’, you get lots of links. One will be the Wikipedia entry, another a batshit conspiracy theory, but you’re able to tell by the link how much to trust each answer. With ChatGPT or Bing, you type your question and you get an answer – that’s it. There are a few references incorporated, but, in general, the move towards generative AI is a move away from external sources, [instead] presenting the information as if it’s just true. They haven’t worked out how to stop these chatbots from lying – or ‘hallucinating’ as the developers call it.
Does your experience make you more immune to disinformation?
A lot of it is common sense. But maybe I’m being too dismissive of it, because I got fooled the other day. There was a photo on Twitter of the Pope wearing a white puffer jacket, and everyone
was like, “Wow, that’s so cool.” But it was AI-generated and I would never have been able to tell. So there is a question about whether it’ll become harder to [find the truth].
Is the desire to expose the truth what led you to your profession?
I enjoy having the time to tell stories in a way that can change perspectives on them and add to public debate. I think Sweet Bobby made more people aware of the dangers of catfishing and of coercive control online, and I really value the opportunity to do that.
Hoaxed centres on a conspiracy theory. Has the development of the internet fuelled their prevalence? When I was doing Hoaxed, I spoke to an academic who specialises in conspiracy theories. He said research shows that they haven’t increased in number since the internet came along. There have always been conspiracy theories, and people willing to believe them. What does [trigger] an increase is socio-economic unrest and uncertainty, which creates a class of people who think some other truth is happening. I think you could have published an investigation 20 years ago and there would still be people saying, “He’s lying, the government is secretly doing this or that.”
How can someone start their own investigative project?
If you just want to get the story out, I’d probably recommend you go to a newspaper or podcast that can take your story and run with it. But if you want to be an investigative journalist, you should have a method that looks like a series of circles going inwards to the centre. The outer circle is the research phase, where you’re just trying to get your head around your subject completely. Then you start calling people on the periphery of the story, who’ll tell you a bit about some of the people closer to the centre. Then you’re circling until you’re ready to call the main person. Then you publish. That’s how I do it. See Alexi Mostrous at KITE Festival at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire, on June 9-11; kitefestival.co.uk
Alexi Mostrous 30 THE RED BULLETIN
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“There have always been conspiracy theories, and people willing to believe them”
All-round hero: Ben Stokes, photographed for The Red Bulletin at his home in the
England cricket captain BEN STOKES is deep in two major home renovations. One has temporarily shut down his prized gaming cave; the other is restoring glory to English cricket
Words RICHARD EDWARDS Photography NEIL GAVIN
the kind of man who people would run through a brick wall for”
In 2022, Test cricket celebrated its 145th anniversary. It’s one of the longest continuous formats in the sporting world, and an unlikely breeding ground for revolution. Or, at least, it was.
Back in March last year, English cricket was enduring its biggest slump in a generation. The Ashes – cricket’s most famous prize – had been surrendered at breakneck speed in Australia, and a tour of the West Indies had fnished in similarly dismal defeat. England found themselves sixth in the global Test rankings, with the lowest point tally in a quarter of a century.
The calls for change were deafening. Then-coach Chris Silverwood had been sacked in February. Joe Root, the captain, would follow in April, after 64 matches at the helm. What was once one of the plum jobs in English sport now looked suspiciously like a poisoned chalice.
Enter Ben Stokes.
The fame-haired all-rounder – perhaps the frst tattooed England captain – was an unlikely choice for some; a brave, stick-your-neck-out option for others. He was offcially
appointed skipper in late April, with New Zealander Brendon McCullum brought in as coach exactly two weeks later. No one could have foreseen what was to follow.
As Stokes greets The Red Bulletin at his gate, his three dogs – Shelby, Sampson and Shay – run excitedly around the England’s captain, who marshals them in much the same way he sets a feld for his country. It’s a bitterly cold March day here in the northeast of England. The sun hasn’t been seen for days, and although the frost has cleared, this is cup-of-tea and hot-water-bottle weather. This summer’s Ashes series against Australia seems a long way off, but then Stokes’ mind is currently preoccupied with other matters.
In his driveway sits a skip flled to the top and ready for collection. His video games room, meanwhile, has been commandeered for storage. This is a house in transition. In sporting terms, it’s a state that Stokes is familiar with. By the time he was handed the England reins last year, the country’s Test fortunes had plummeted to such an extent that simply delivering mediocrity would have been seen as something of a triumph.
However, anyone who has followed Stokes’ career in cricket’s fve-day format knows that mediocrity isn’t a word he recognises. And by the time the summer was out, he hadn’t so much resurrected his country’s fortunes as turned an entire format on its head.
“It’s great to look back on,” he says, smiling broadly as he takes a seat on the sofa in a room overlooking the driveway.
Lord Ian Botham
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Play to win: Stokes’ passion for gaming grew during lockdown; he now co-owns a company that manages esports players
Dressed in shirt sleeves, he’s relaxed and enjoying this brief spell at home amid a relentless schedule that leaves downtime at a premium. “Last summer was full of great moments for us as a team,” Stokes says. “It wasn’t a case of easy cricket and games that we won. We could have been on the losing end of quite a few of those games.
“And that’s what we wanted to do – try to come up with a way of playing cricket that was going to force a result either way. Everyone bought into it really quickly. Not only did we enjoy playing that way, but I think the people who support us and watch us really enjoyed it as well.”
He’s not wrong. In fact, so sensational were his side’s performances that when September rolled around, it wasn’t only England cricket fans who were crying out for more; the rest of the world was, too.
For more than a century, there have been some accepted truths surrounding Test cricket – a format of the game lasting
fve days and involving both sides batting twice in a match. First is the acceptance that the length of the game leads to a more sedate approach to run scoring. The average scoring rate in runs per six-ball over since 1877 is 2.88, and although there has been a rise in recent decades, it has remained relatively consistent. The second truism is that history shows chasing down an opposition total of more than 200 in the fourth and fnal innings of the match is hard. Very, very hard.
England didn’t so much test those two theories in 2022 as tear them to pieces. The reason? A combination of captain and coach that made players believe anything was possible. And that the past is no more a reliable indicator of the future than expecting rain tomorrow because it was dry today.
By the time England were chasing down fourth-innings totals against New Zealand last summer, they were scoring at a run rate of almost six an over. Against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in December, they became the frst team in history
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Tail-ender: the England cricketer chills during a rare break at home with his dogs, Shelby, Sampson and Shay
to score 500 runs on the frst day of a Test match. It was cricket, but not as we know it. The press immediately named it ‘Bazball’, in honour of the coach behind its creation (‘Baz’ is McCullum’s nickname).
“I’d never worked with Brendon, but I’d obviously come across him in international cricket when he was playing for New Zealand and again in franchise cricket in the IPL [Indian Premier League],” says Stokes, who plays for IPL team Chennai Super Kings. “So I knew what he thought about cricket, and how he took the game on. With me and Baz, you’ve got two blokes in the leadership position, driving the team in the same direction without any mixed messages for anyone. It’s so clear what we want to achieve within this team that the conversations we have around cricket are simple.”
If, in March last year, England were making winning games of cricket look like the most complicated task in sport, by the time Big Ben was ringing in 2023 they had turned it into something resembling child’s play.
To appreciate the scale of Stokes’ recent achievements, it’s necessary to go back to March 2019. When The Red Bulletin sat down with the Durham all-rounder that month in a hotel room in Jaipur, it was the eve of the biggest season of his cricketing career. First, there was a 50-over World Cup on home soil, then the tantalising prospect of winning back the Ashes from Australia.
For Stokes, it was a seminal summer. He pretty much singlehandedly won the former in a thrilling fnal against New Zealand on a glorious July day at Lord’s. And although England failed to wrestle the Ashes from their Southern Hemisphere adversaries, Stokes was in the best form of his life and, at Headingley, won England a Test from a seemingly impossible situation by playing one of the greatest innings ever seen on English soil, striking an inhuman 135 not out.
He ended 2019 by being named BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year, one of only fve cricketers to claim the prize. As Stokes reclines on his sofa, the reminders of that 12-month period are everywhere you look. In a frame on a wall, adjacent to a bar containing the unopened champagne bottles awarded as Man of the Match awards throughout his England career, sits the England shirt he wore during the most famous fnal in World Cup history. The mud stain on the front – picked up while diving for a game-changing run in the penultimate over – is still very much visible. The prestigious BBC prize is instantly recognisable on the hearth.
By the time 2020 rolled around, Stokes was the most famous cricketer on the planet. An all-rounder with the world at his feet. Then, suddenly, everything that any sportsperson in the world had taken for granted came crashing down around their ears.
England were mid-tour in Sri Lanka when it became clear that the COVID pandemic was spreading uncontrollably. As England’s cricketers headed home, they arrived back in a country very different from the one they’d left just a few weeks earlier. As international, domestic and pretty much every other form of cricket went into a state of enforced hibernation, Stokes and his teammates were forced to live in bio-secure bubbles in a bid to keep international sport going.
Having to live under such constrained conditions took an inevitable toll. Stokes’ father, Ged – an almost constant presence wherever his son played in the world – passed away
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“Thinking about cricket constantly is potentially not good for me”
Ben Stokes Ben Stokes
“We can still give more, do more and achieve a lot more”
Cricketing catalyst: Stokes was made England captain in April last year, and his appointment had an immediate positive impact
Payback time: Stokes has his eye on victory with England against Australia in the Ashes this summer
in December 2020. In July the following year, the all-rounder announced he was taking an indefnite break from the game to prioritise his mental health. He missed the whole of India’s tour to England that summer. But this period of convalescence opened an unexpected door.
“I’m really into gaming, and gaming went through the roof come when lockdown happened,” says Stokes, who, like millions around the world, turned to online, free-to-play, battle royale video game Call of Duty: Warzone. “It’s one of those things you look back to: gaming from seven o’clock till 10 or 11 at night. You feel like a child talking about it now, but for a lot of us it wasn’t just gaming, it was just a way to keep in contact with our friends.
“The people I played Call of Duty with, who I met through friends, are now my friends. The frst time I saw those people in real life, it was like we’d already met, because we’d been playing six months of CoD together. You’d see them and it was like, ‘Oh, that’s what you really look like.’”
Stokes admits he isn’t quite the natural at CoD that he is at cricket – “I’d like to say I’ve got a lot better than when I frst started playing, but it’s like sport: some days you can do no wrong, and other times you can have a complete nightmare” – but it did open up new territories in his professional life. Alongside fellow England cricket stars Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer, he set up a new business venture, 4Cast, which provides management for other esports gamers.
“I love it,” says Stokes. “I didn’t do business studies or anything like that; I’ve just been learning on the job, whether that’s ways of working in business or hearing certain phrases. They come very easily to the people I’m working with, and if I’m not sure about something, I always ask – that’s my way of learning, rather than going to any business school.”
As well as broadening his skill base, Stokes’ involvement in the world of gaming now offers a distraction from a job that can be all-consuming.
“It allows me to completely switch off from cricket,” he says. “As I’ve got older, I’ve found it very useful to have something else to put my time and energy and focus into. I know thinking about [cricket] constantly is potentially something that’s not good for me. Some people need to be thinking about [the sport] 24/7, but when I’m not around the lads or in ‘cricket mode’, as we call it, I’m pretty much full-on with the business side of things.
“When I’m away playing [cricket], I don’t get that involved in the business stuff that goes on day to day,” he adds. “But since we came back from Pakistan [a tour that ended shortly before Christmas] and have had a lot of time off in between training, I’m spending pretty much every day on [the business].”
If the world of gaming has given Stokes a new focus in the world of business, then the captaincy has given him a new lease of life as a cricketer. Eyebrows were raised when an all-rounder of his ability was frst appointed, with some questioning whether Stokes would be able to handle the twin responsibilities of being team talisman and raising the spirits and fortunes of a moribund side.
Lord Ian Botham knows how heavily that responsibility can weigh, having endured a brief but inglorious stint as skipper himself back in 1980 and 1981. “I think Ben has been a breath of fresh air,” he says. “And sometimes you need someone who does a different role to come in and do the job. I said at the time it was an inspired appointment, and I think I’ve been proved right. He’s a leader, the kind of man people would run through a brick wall for.”
Before Stokes’ appointment, England had lost fve series in succession and won just one Test in their last 17. Now, just over a year on, Australia will arrive to face a side who have won 10 of their last 12. And in doing so they’ve turned Test cricket, and England’s fortunes, on their head.
This winter, Stokes became the frst captain in history to lead a team to a clean sweep of Test wins in a series in Pakistan. He then saw his side draw a thrilling two-Test series in New Zealand. The fnal, in Wellington, which England lost by one run – the narrowest losing margin in any match – was a textbook example of Stokes’ and McCullum’s philosophy. Namely, that England were prepared to lose a Test by giving themselves a chance to win it. The message is simple: we want to beat you, and we’ll play the way we want to play to do it.
So, what was the mood like in the England dressing room after that defeat? “Pretty mixed, to be honest,” Stokes admits. “But it was also hard to be overly disappointed, because of the way the game played out. It’s good that games are going down to the wire. It’s not always going to happen like that, because over fve days you’ll generally see one team being on top for the majority of it. But the great thing about sport is that you’re never sure who’s going to take those rewards home. That game showed Test cricket is just as good as other formats.”
These optics are crucial, particularly with the game’s longest and traditional format currently under enormous pressure from the growth of Twenty20 cricket – a crashbang-wallop format frst introduced in England back in 2003, which has proved enormously popular with spectators, sponsors and broadcasters. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Indian Premier League, the format’s most lucrative tournament. TV rights for the competition for the next fve years recently sold for $6.02bn (£5.13bn). And now a number of IPL franchise owners are sinking their cash into other competitions around the world, including South Africa’s new T20 competition, which began back in January this year, spreading the wealth and placing yet more strain on Test cricket.
The riches on offer to players – Stokes himself will earn well over £1m for his involvement in this spring’s IPL – makes it eminently possible that, in the future, more players will follow the money instead of the prestige of representing their country. This is an issue Stokes is acutely aware of. “When we get together as a Test group, we’re conscious of creating an environment that [players] are excited to come to,” he says. “It’s about keeping that willingness to be a part of it, rather than the things that can attract people away from Test cricket.
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“Gaming allows me to completely switch off from cricket”
Safe pair of hands: captain Stokes celebrates a catch during England’s Test series clean sweep against Pakistan in Karachi last December
We can only do what we can do to keep people interested in representing England in the longest format. I think – and so does Brendon – that a huge part of that is down to what we do away from the pitch.”
Clearly, Stokes has picked up a few pointers from his sabbatical. “While we’re playing a series, we also play a lot of golf and have a lot of things organised so the lads can switch off naturally without making it too much of a forced thing. We want to make sure it’s as much fun as possible.”
For years, England sides have been slaves to the notion that no one wins cricket matches without putting in the hard yards before, and during, a day’s play. “We’re not saying you don’t need to warm-up; it’s just doing it in a different way,” Stokes says. “We’re putting the responsibility on everyone to do what they feel they need to do, rather than warm-up just because it looks good to be together as a team. We’ll meet in the dressing room 10 minutes [before the start of play] and if we’ve got something to say, we’ll say something. If not, we’ll just head out.”
This relaxed approach fies in the face of modern thinking, but it’s very much in keeping with a captaincy philosophy that places fulflling individual needs alongside winning Test matches, all in a style that will put bums on seats and inspire people to take up the sport.
No one is suggesting that England cricketers didn’t enjoy playing cricket until Stokes was captain, but there was certainly none of the levity he’s brought to this side since being appointed. And, as what is shaping up to be one of the best Ashes in modern memory looms on the horizon, England’s brave new approach isn’t about to change.
“The last 12 months have been great, and I think the best thing is that we can still give more, do more and achieve a lot more,” he says. “We’re still learning about ourselves as players and as a team. Winning and experiencing the highs is great, but on the few occasions where we haven’t performed as we would have liked, we’ve learned a lot more. We haven’t taken it in a negative way; we’ve refected and used that to move forward, rather than stand still or move backwards. We’ve made the way we want to operate clear. The Aussies are a very strong team, but we won’t be taking a backward step. I’m really looking forward to that contest.”
Stokes’ England team will be only too ready to follow their leader into battle, secure in the knowledge that, whatever happens out on pitch, it’ll be memorable. “I’m at a point now in my career where I’ve played 90 games [and now I’m] more focused on infuencing someone else’s career or more than one person’s career in a positive way,’ says Stokes as he stands in his garden, cars on the A19 buzzing past in the distance. “We want to help create memories for these players, especially when we’re playing on tour. You want to look back on the period you spent playing for England and think, ‘Jeez, what a good time we had then.’”
But right now he needs to get those boxes out of that games room.
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“We want to help create memories for the players”
42 THE RED BULLETIN GETTY IMAGES
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Mother of invention
When shooting an inspiring group of women skaters in Bolivia, there was only one person who Peruvian photographer CELIA D LUNA wanted by her side: the woman who taught her the importance of female defiance and creativity
Words LOU BOYD Photography CELIA D LUNA
44 THE RED BULLETIN
Giant leap: skater Teffy Morales opens her arms wide and lands an ollie on her first attempt.
Band of sisters (opposite): “I didn’t know it then, but I was about to capture one of the most important photos of my career,” says Luna. “At that moment it was special, because I could see unity and power.”
Skirtpark: “The skaters told me that seeing underskirts in Bolivia is like seeing underwear,” says Luna. “It’s something that past generations didn’t usually show. Here’s Elinor [Buitrago] in action.”
Born to a single mother in a small town in Ayacucho, rural Peru, photographer Celia D Luna’s childhood was flled with Andean folklore and traditions. Luna’s mother, Celia Victoria Morales, taught her young daughter about the vibrancy and strength of their home country, and Luna grew up inspired by bold colours and bold women. Decades later, living in Miami and now the single parent of a daughter of her own, Luna decided to combine those inspirations and shoot striking photography of striking women. “I want to photograph women who are dreamers,” she says. “Fighters like my mother, and colourful like my country.”
One day in 2020 – in Miami, her home since 1996 – Luna came across photos on Instagram of a group of young women in Cochabamba, Bolivia, dressed in colourful fabrics and full lace underskirts she recognised from her own youth. They wore the traditional dress of indigenous Andean women: bowler hats, pollera skirts (voluminous skirts made of cotton or wool) and Aguayo wrap shawls (made from a colourful, hand-woven material), with long braids down their backs. And these women were skateboarders. The photos showed them rolling around town, kickfipping over pavements and doing board grabs on halfpipes, fashing the underskirts of their polleras as they performed their tricks.
Luna knew she had to fnd these women and shoot them herself. “I just gravitated towards them,” she says. “I could see something of myself in them, and I was so intrigued about why they were wearing their traditional clothing while doing sport. I wanted to go and meet them immediately.”
With the assistance of local guides and business owners in Cochabamba, Luna was able to track down one of the skaters
Celia D Luna
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Dream team: “When we skate as a group, we feel a kinship and motivation to keep going until we achieve our goal,” says ImillaSkate member Belen Fajardo. “We’ve received messages of thanks and support from girls and young women who have seen us in the media and now want to learn to skate.”
in the pictures and introduced herself to their group. They all agreed to meet up for a photoshoot.
Bolivian skater group ImillaSkate – imilla translates from the Native American languages Aymara and Quechua as ‘young girl’ – was formed in 2019 by then 23-year-old Cochabamba local Dani Santiváñez and two friends. All avid skaters, the group ride their boards wearing the dress associated with the women of the Highland regions of central South America. Their aesthetic is a symbol of resistance against the pejorative use of the term cholita – a name given to young indigenous Andean women – and any clothing associated with it.
“When I grew up in the Andes, if you called somebody cholita, or chola, you were kind of insulting them,” says Luna, 41. “It was a derogatory term making fun of you for not speaking Spanish properly, or not seeming educated, or wearing indigenous clothing or something. But I see how Bolivian girls, especially these skaters, totally give a different
meaning to cholita. They use the word with so much pride and joy, and they want to manifest that pride by wearing the same traditional clothing their mums or grandmas wore back in the day. They’re recontextualising and reclaiming cholita while doing this sport that pushes them into the future.”
As she prepared to fy to Bolivia for the shoot, Luna had only one person in mind as a companion. So she called her mother. “I knew she’d be down [with it], because she loves adventures,” Luna says. “She worked at a travel agency when she was younger. She was like a boss lady and took a lot of trips.” The two women journeyed to Cochabamba together to meet and photograph the group of inspiring cholitas. “My mum wasn’t really a typical shoot assistant, carrying my gear or anything, but she made sure that I was fed and I was drinking water, which is important!” laughs Luna.
After arriving in Cochabamba on the day of the shoot, the pair waited at a local restaurant for the skaters to arrive.
Celia D Luna
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Top deck: “Deysi Tacuri Lopez is the daredevil of the group,” says Luna. “The girls look up to her.”
Cholita style: “It’s about identity; feeling close to my grandmother who wore traditional dress and passed some of it on to me to wear,” says Belen Fajardo. “It makes her feel proud and very happy that I’ve been able to wear this clothing.”
Striking back: “Wearing clothing that represents women as strong and determined fighters fills me with pride,” says skater Susan Mesa, “because my grandmother was like that. I didn’t appreciate that until I started to wear the pollera and was able to understand that the social stigma she’d been subjected to was also my struggle. I was going to do this not just for me but also for my grandmother, my mother and all the women who have ever been treated with disdain for wearing these clothes.”
“I remember sitting there with my mum, and then suddenly we saw them all skating toward us in their traditional clothes,” Luna recalls. “I was like, “Mum, this is the coolest thing ever.’” As they ate, Luna, her mother and the skaters got to know each other. “We had a meal that was very meat-heavy, and it reminded me and my mum of our own town [in Peru], so we talked about all our similarities and differences,” says Luna. The skaters shared stories of their mothers and grandmothers, and of the female traditions that inspire them in their presentday lives. “I feel like Peru and Bolivia are very similar, especially as both are the Andes. In our country, we pay a lot of respect to our elders, so they were very respectful towards my mum. That was so nice.”
At the skatepark, Luna took advantage of the low sunlight during the shoot. “I knew the colour of the clothing was going to be perfect, but the light was just right, too; a perfect combination of colours,” she says. The whole shoot was done in one day. “I spent time with each skater, getting to know them and letting them see how I work, just having an
intimate moment between us and getting to know them on a deeper level through my camera. What was special was that by the end of the shoot they wanted to dress me in their traditional clothes. The power of these skaters comes not only from them practising a sport that [is often] not seen as being for girls, but also from their pride. Knowing where they come from and showing that to the world. It’s a reclamation of what was used against them before.”
Shooting and hanging out in Bolivia with ImillaSkate brought Luna and her mother even closer to their own cultural history and to each other. “After meeting the skaters, we started talking more about my grandma and my great grandma and what their lives were like, then we decided to hire a person to look into our family tree,” says Luna. “It was such a special moment to spend together.
“Spending time with these girls and shooting the group felt like the perfect way to celebrate where I come from. A way to show thanks to my mum for everything she gave me, and to show the rest of the world how beautiful and rich our culture is.” celiadluna.com; Instagram: @imillaSkate
Celia D Luna
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Potion project: Luna and her mother at the witch market in La Paz, Bolivia, where you can buy dried llama foetuses used as offerings to Mother Earth
No, seriously, don’t look down: ever the daredevil, Kyle can’t resist a pulseracing peek at the ground 640m below
DON’T LOOK DOWN
It’s one thing to dream about riding a bike in the sky. It’s quite another to pull it off. Enter KRISS KYLE , a BMX pro whose imagination is as wild as his skill in the saddle
Words JESSICA HOLLAND
53 EISA BAKOS
Kriss Kyle’s hands have been sweating all morning despite the December chill, and he’s hardly slept.
The 30-year-old BMXer is checking over his bike in a small aircraft hangar on a country estate in Wiltshire, trying to keep warm and stay calm. It’s frosty enough outside that the grass crunches underfoot, but as the sun rises, it burns off the mist and fills the field with golden light. Today is the day Kyle has been waiting for.
Eleven months of waiting, to be precise, for the right weather to attempt Kyle’s most extreme stunt yet. All told, it’s been almost three years since a lockdown pedal through the hills near his home in Scotland inspired the unlikely idea of a BMX ramp suspended in the air. The pro rider has worked on some outlandish projects in his time, but this was next-level even for him. When Red Bull asked if he was serious about turning this daydream into a reality, Kyle’s answer was instant. “I was like, fucking 100 per cent,” he says. “I said I would do it in a heartbeat.”
In reality it took a lot longer than that. What followed was a Herculean team
effort full of setbacks and hard graft as a team was assembled to problem-solve their way to making airborne BMX riding a reality. By that cold December morning in 2022, a 13m-long carbon-fibre skate bowl – like those you find in skateparks, the rough size and shape of a small, empty swimming pool – had been built, which could be attached to the UK’s biggest hot-air balloon and flown 640m above ground level. It was the product of a collaboration between engineers at Red Bull Advanced Technology, who usually work on F1 racing cars; Bristol-based
company Cameron Balloons, and a group of Kyle’s old BMX mates from Scotland and the north of England, who had been building ramps together since they were kids and now do so professionally.
This disparate crew has gathered before dawn on land owned by the Earl of Suffolk to assemble this strange hybrid structure: nylon attached to wicker attached to carbon fibre. And the time has finally come to see if Kyle can fulfil his dream of riding in the sky. The bowl is being blasted with flame-throwers to dry out any moisture that could turn into
Catch my drift:
54 THE RED BULLETIN EISA
(top) pre-flight prep at the hangar in Wiltshire; (left) the path of the hot-air balloon is mapped out; (opposite) Kyle, helmeted-up and raring to go on the big day
BAKOS, SAMANTHA SASKIA DUGON
“I don’t think there’ll ever be anything harder than this”
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If he has to deploy the ’chute, Kyle is told, it’s “to save his life, not his legs”
Whole new bowl game
Creating a bowl fit for a sky ride is far from straightforward. As well as being the correct size and shape for Kyle to use, it had to be light enough to be lifted by a hot-air balloon, and able to be disassembled into pieces no heavier than 150kg and no wider than 3m, so they could be carried through farmers’ gates before and after the flight. And this ‘jigsaw’ had to be strong enough to withstand Kyle’s bike moves. Finally, it needed railings that could take the impact of Kyle landing on them, and skids on the underside for landing.
The design of the bowl began with a conversation between Kyle and ramp builder George Eccleston. Kyle outlined his requirements, and Eccleston designed and built a prototype bowl from wood, weighing six tonnes. Following tests and tweaks, the blueprints were sent to Red Bull Advanced Technology (RBAT), the highperformance vehicle engineering division of Red Bull Racing.
The RBAT team decided to build the bowl from the same carbon fibre as an F1 car. This involved building a mould and layering on glass fibre sheets, painted with resin. Once enough layers were added, the structure was cured at high temperature and pressure in an autoclave. When Kyle tried riding his BMX on the finished product, the interior was too slippery for optimal performance, so a rougher finish had to be added.
an ice patch when the temperature drops to around -12°C. Meanwhile, choppers are waiting to carry the photographers, filmmakers and drone pilots documenting the flight. When asked how he’s feeling, Kyle acts nonchalant, but a briefing on protocol the night before, in which worst-case scenarios were discussed, had been a reality check for him. This is actually happening.
As well as wearing thermals, a helmet and sportswear, Kyle has a parachute strapped to his back – but he hasn’t tried using it. A height of 640m is unadvisedly low for a skydive: there’s not much time to open the canopy and get your bearings before you hit the ground. If he has to deploy the ’chute, Kyle has been told, it’s “to save his life, not his legs”. He’d have no control over where he landed or what he might hit on the way down.
At the same time, the weight of the parachute on his back disrupts his balance, and his handlebars could snag the ripcord loop on his chest when he twists them for a ‘tabletop’ move. He’s had visions of deploying the parachute by accident and getting sucked out of the bowl. Add this to any vertigo he might suffer at this height and it’s not the ideal scenario for pulling off complicated runs.
Then there’s the real battle: the fact that the bowl will swing metres at a time in response to Kyle’s movements. When he first tried it out with the bowl hung beneath a crane in Glasgow in late 2021, he nearly given up on the whole project. The swinging gave him motion sickness and turned even basic moves into a “nightmare” that he compares to riding drunk. And Kyle isn’t only planning to do basic moves; he has a list of nine runs to film, and there are some he’s never managed to complete in the bowl during the few hours he managed to grab while it was suspended from the crane. “It’s the hardest thing I ever could have imagined,” he says. “I don’t think there will ever be anything harder than this.”
The most difficult trick on Kyle’s list is a fakie front flip: riding backwards, launching off the back wheel, and rotating 360° into the air to land travelling forwards. Most world-class riders would struggle to land this in such a tight space even if the bowl was on solid ground. In the air, Kyle compares it to a gymnast trying to land somersaults on a moving beam. Then there’s the ‘ice pick’, a move that will involve Kyle launching himself out of the bowl and
“I felt like I was holding my breath the entire time,” Kyle says later
THE RED BULLETIN 57 EISA BAKOS
margin for error: (top) Kyle gets a feel for the relative safety of the basket, pre-flight; (above) detailed blueprints show how the custom-made bowl is attached to the balloon; (opposite) flying high over the Wiltshire countryside
“Before I knew it, we were at 2,100 feet and I heard, ‘Here we go’”
Big air: Kyle nails tricks at a height of 640m. “Mate,” the drone pilot said to him over a twoway radio, “how the hell are you riding that?”
Motorists pull over to film the strange sight on their phones
landing with one peg balanced on the top of the safety railing that separates him from a 640m drop to the ground below. Overshoot it and he’ll be given a chance to test that parachute.
What kind of person would put themselves through something like this? Kyle got married a few months ago. He loves his home, his dogs; he talks with wonder about the life of travel and
adventure that his BMX allows him to live. In YouTube videos and press appearances, he’s chirpy, polite and professional; among mates, more exuberant and dryly funny. But beneath it all, there’s a desire to do extraordinary things, and the steely determination to make it happen – he broke his ribs jumping from a rooftop to a tree for his last video, for example, then got up and did the jump three more times.
Even as a kid, Kyle sacrificed everything for his riding. At 14, he was so obsessed with BMX that he’d sleep on friend’s couches, skipping school, to avoid the six-hour round trip from his home in rural Scotland to Unit 23 skatepark near Glasgow. Before long, the park’s owner, Chick Mailey, offered Kyle a two-seater sofa to sleep on, and he moved in permanently, ignoring the school officials chasing him about his attendance until they finally went away.
“Nights [at the skatepark] were brutal,” he says. “It was so scary; there were rats running over me. I didn’t have any clean clothes, and I lived off sweeties. But when my friends were there and I was riding, it was the best time ever.” Kyle lived in the skatepark for years, eventually joined by a gaggle of mates eager for the same kind of freedom.
“It was fucking insane,” recalls Dave Summerson, who moved into Unit 23 when he was 20, “but it was the best thing I ever did.” Unlike Kyle, who says he wasn’t running away from anything at home but boredom, Summerson says that he and others who stayed there “had a pretty rough upbringing”. Part of the appeal of the set-up, he reflects, was “probably, deep down, that thing of wanting a connection with someone else”. Now, the riders who lived there are “a family, like a band of brothers”. In the years that followed, Kyle developed from teen BMX prodigy to world-travelling competitive rider, before quitting the contest circuit to focus on making creative, extreme videos. Along the way, he’s involved as many of the old Unit 23 gang as possible in his projects. Today in Wiltshire, three of those “brothers” are here as part of the build team: Summerson, Jake Walters, and George Eccleston, who runs ramp-building company Monolith and designed the bowl to Kyle’s specifications. It was these mates who helped Kyle get through the darkest moments of his journey to this point, taking him to the pub or joining him for a low-key private BMX session when the pressure was mounting and he couldn’t see a way forward.
Now, the day of the flight has finally arrived and, as Kyle climbs into the basket of the hot-air balloon, trying to hide his nerves, Summerson is alongside him. The burners are turned up and the basket lifts off the ground. Finally the bowl itself, suspended 7m below, rises into the air. There’s a mad scramble as the whole thing then starts to rapidly move sideways, threatening to smash into equipment and cars. Then it’s away, distracting motorists on rural Wiltshire roads, who pull over to film the strange sight on their phones.
“It got real all of a sudden,” Kyle says afterwards. “Before I knew it, we were at 2,100 feet [640m] and I was hearing, ‘Here we go.’” He climbs down from the
If bowls had eyes: an alternative view of Kyle dropping in. Cue lots of scary swinging from side to side as he rides his BMX at high altitude
basket into the bowl and looks over the side, buzzing with adrenaline. “The choppers hadn’t arrived yet, so there was no noise, nothing,” he says later. “You’re just floating. It was surreal. I remember thinking back to that 10-year-old kid who’d just started [BMX]. All these amazing projects I get to work on, all through riding that little bike.”
Then the helicopters are here, and it’s showtime. Kyle gets on his bike, drops in, and begins riding with his characteristic mix of precision and style. “I felt like I was holding my breath the entire time,” he later reveals. “Usually, there’s a moment to relax between tricks, but this bowl was so packed with features – wallride, channel, hip, tombstone – I couldn’t get a breath in.” When it was first unveiled, in a hangar in Milton Keynes, fellow Red Bull riders Kieran Reilly and Bas Keep were invited to try riding the ramp on solid ground. “We all struggled,” Keep said at the time. “You have to change directions so quickly. But it’s perfect for Kriss; he’s like a house fly.”
The sun is dazzling in one direction and casting stark shadows in the other. Up in the air, the bowl is swinging so much that drone pilot Andrew Lawrence is having a hard time following Kyle’s moves. “Mate,” he says, though Kyle can’t hear him, “how the hell are you riding that?”
When it’s time for the ‘ice pick’ on the railing, Summerson refuses to watch. He listens out instead for the sound of the bike peg hitting metal, but
it’s drowned out by the roar that rings out from everyone crammed into the balloon and choppers. “I was like, ‘Holy fucking shit!’” Kyle says of the moment he landed the trick, almost going too fast and overshooting it. “Fuck that! I’m never doing that again!” But the video’s director, Matty Lambert, was telling him they needed another take, for a different angle. “I was like, ‘Nah, nah, nah.’” Then, “Ah shit, here I go.”
Landing the balloon is another terrifying moment, the bowl bouncing along the ground of a rugby pitch and almost flipping over as those in the basket brace themselves on hands and knees. Summerson kisses the ground once they are finally out, describing the experience as “horrific”. Other team members rush over to congratulate Kyle, who receives the praise cheerfully but repeats the same response more than once: “I didn’t get the fakie front flip. I want to go back up.”
The whole team has waited almost a year for the right weather conditions for this first flight, but after Kyle persuades
them to let him try again, he gets lucky. In February 2023, there’s another bright, cold, still day, and they get the go-ahead for a second attempt. This time, when Kyle ascends in the balloon with his mates and collaborators – minus Summerson, who is happy to stay at ground level – his back is aching from repetitively drilling front flips on his bike all week and crashing multiple times.
Once in the bowl, there’s no time for a warm-up. Kyle goes straight into filming a slightly easier run, and then gets into position for the front flip. As he rides backwards and launches off his back wheel, his eyes are squeezed shut. Then he feels his tyres hit the transition and hears an explosion of cheers. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says afterwards. “It worked first try. Thank God we put it to bed. It was so good to finally fucking get it done.”
There are riders who focus on pushing certain BMX tricks to the limit, like the triple flair that Reilly landed in 2021, but what Kyle has achieved with this project, named Don’t Look Down, is different. “He thinks outside the box,” says Reilly. “He thinks outside BMX.” The image of someone riding 600m in the sky, held up by nothing more than warm air, is about more than a showcase of technical proficiency. It touches on something deeper: the desire, perhaps, to escape not just gravity but other constraints, too. When Kyle was asked to come up with a name for his signature bike for the brand BSD, he chose ‘Freedom’. “There are no rules in BMX,” he says. “You can just express yourself. It’s an escape. It’s the best feeling ever. It has shaped who I am as a person and it’s all I’ve ever cared about.”
This level of passion comes with restless energy. Kyle is already planning his next project, this time on a mountain bike, and says he would have gone back up in the balloon to get more clips if he could. But at the Don’t Look Down première he’ll have a chance to pause and celebrate the ridiculous achievement he and his mates pulled off: turning a surreal lockdown daydream into a deathdefying display of guts and grace. “I can’t believe it was possible, to be honest,” he says. “I’m unbelievably stoked. After this, I feel like I can do anything.”
To watch Don’t Look Down, as well as behind-the-scenes footage, go to redbull.co.uk/dontlookdown
“BMX is an escape. It’s the best feeling ever”
60 THE RED BULLETIN SAMANTHA SASKIA DUGON
Jumping ahead: next, Kyle has his sights on some mountainbike madness
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Feet of fury: Powell spars at Ten Acres Lane Sports Complex in Newton Heath, Manchester, home of GB Taekwondo
Words MARK LOMAS
P hotography JANE STOCKDALE
Taekwondo prodigy AALIYAH POWELL has dreamt of winning Olympic gold since childhood. Now aged 20, and one of the world’s most accomplished fighters, she’s ready to achieve it
In an industrial corner of East Manchester, a mere stone’s throw from the factory immortalised in LS Lowry’s 1943 painting Going to Work, a conveyor belt of taekwondo talent has been successfully turning out Olympians for more than a decade. Ten Acres Lane Sports Complex is the home of GB Taekwondo, and just as Lowry’s famous matchstick figures funnelled through the factory doors day after gruelling day, here aspiring and accomplished athletes alike enter this unassuming building braced for a relentless regimen.
The first challenge comes in the car park. From a nearby bread wholesaler, the aroma of freshly baked dough wafts invitingly around those who pass through, providing a daily test of temptation on the short walk towards the entrance. Inside GB Taekwondo, however, it’s the smell of sweat that hangs heavy in the air. It permeates every corner of the main training hall, a constant reminder of the levels of sinewstraining and raw desire required to reach the top of this sport. Practitioners of the Korean martial art deploy punches and often acrobatic kicks at lightning-quick speeds, withdrawing and blocking with equal dexterity. This room is full of fighters and of expectation, their hunger firmly directed towards Paris 2024 and a shot at Olympic glory.
In the middle of the hall, effortlessly landing a series of high kicks on her coach, is Aaliyah Powell. A few minutes later, fresh from her session and still sporting a blue chest guard, Powell succinctly outlines her plan.
“The big one is next year,” she says. “Paris Olympics. Gold medal. Period.”
Powell doesn’t waste words. She’s just 20 years old, but each time she speaks it’s with purpose. Her approach as a fighter reflects this; nothing feels rushed, every move is considered. As a teenager Powell was identified as a future Olympian. And for five years she’s lived away from her family home in Huddersfield, around an hour’s drive away, with taekwondo and its punishing training schedule at the centre of her universe. It has bred an independence and understanding of self that’s unusual at an age when friends and peers are still discovering their identity amid the throes of university life or early careers.
“I think when everyone gets to late teens, they start thinking, ‘Actually, who am I? Who do I want to be?’ When you’re younger, you often let other people tell you what’s best for you and who you should be, even though I’ve always been kind of stubborn and tried to push back. But I used to think a lot about the expectations that other people had on me, and I let that affect me.
“Now I’m older and kind of wiser – maybe – I’ve realised that it doesn’t really matter what they think; it’s about my expectations of myself.”
Powell first tried taekwondo as a young child of parents who firmly encouraged sporting participation. But she initially dismissed it in search of other sporting interests; swimming, dancing, tennis and athletics. Then a temporary return to taekwondo at the age of nine stuck. Powell quickly became a precocious fighter, winning gold at 2018 World Taekwondo Junior Championships in Hammamet, Tunisia. Then, a year later, her burgeoning reputation was cemented. Her father secretly signed her up to her first-ever senior event, deciding that the World Taekwondo Championships in Manchester represented a fitting baptism of fire. After initially refusing the invitation, Powell flourished on the big stage, claiming a surprise bronze medal as a 16-year-old.
“At the Junior Worlds, I had that giddy, shocked feeling after winning gold that I’ll never forget. But after the senior World Championships, things became more serious because it started to be more about making a career out of taekwondo. Before that, I did taekwondo because I liked doing it and used to get to go to other countries and miss school to compete. Then, after the senior World Championships, I was invited to come full time, and there were more options presented to me for what my life could look like in the future.”
The 2019 World Championships kickstarted her journey towards the Olympics, but that path has been far from straightforward. Powell was named after tragic R&B star Aaliyah, whose untimely death in a plane crash at the age of 22 occurred a year before her birth. Among the American’s acclaimed back catalogue, much admired by Powell’s mum, is the Grammy award-winning song Try Again. Its lyrics call for personal resilience and speak directly to the recent experiences of Britain’s rising taekwondo star. After two years of injuries – she tore her knee ligaments and then ruptured her meniscus in 2019, needing surgery twice – Powell knows all too well the importance of being resilient.
“Very early in my career I’ve had to deal with the mental battles of being injured, and with the frustrations of not feeling – or physically being – how I was before,” she explains.
A combination of rehab and the COVID pandemic meant that for almost two years Powell didn’t compete. It represented a challenging period for the then-teenager, who missed out on valuable tournament experience at what should have been a key stage of her development.
“Some days it was just terrible,” Powell recalls. “It’s hard to be positive every day, and at that time I questioned whether I’d even be able to do taekwondo again. I had to reteach myself how to kick at a basic level. I felt like I was literally a white belt starting taekwondo from the beginning again.
“I had those doubts of, ‘Am I ever going to get back to where I was before?’ There’s so much emotion. Along the way, you just need to have little goals in rehab that you can achieve, and friends and family are also really important to help you not slip
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“I feel more sure than ever of what I need and who I am”
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Steely determination: Powell, photographed in Manchester for The Red Bulletin in March this year
into a rut. Being able to focus on the end goal has helped me the most; I had to keep reminding myself that the goal doesn’t change, it’s just how you get there has changed a little bit.”
After almost two years in the wilderness, Powell claimed her second World Championship bronze of her career in Guadalajara, Mexico, last November. Among the smiles and sombreros – thrust into the hands of all the medallists – was a feeling that she was once again on an upward trajectory. Powell now has a chance to go a step further in May when the 2023 World Championship is held in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“[The 2022 medal win] was an indicator that we’re in the mix with everyone, but honestly it’s not what I want,” she says. “Bronze isn’t what any of us get out of bed for. I think my mentality has changed. I’ve realised that you can have all the ability in the world, you can kick perfectly and you can be aggressive, but mentally, if you’re not in control of yourself and your emotions, you can only get so far.”
This is an opinion supported by Powell’s coach of three-anda-half years, 2014 European Taekwondo Championships silver medallist Torann Maizeroi.
“For Aaliyah, the obstacle is herself,” Maizeroi says. “She’s so gifted, but I don’t think she knows just how good she is. In sport, the faith must come first. You’re so often training for something you haven’t achieved yet. I have that faith, and [now] she’s starting to see it. The more she fights, the more she sees, ‘Shit, I can do it.’ I think she’s very close to smashing through this glass ceiling of her own belief. And when she makes it through that, she can really achieve anything.”
The state-of-the-art training facility here in Manchester has been credited for helping to make taekwondo one of Britain’s most successful Olympic sports in terms of medal success in recent years. Competition is stiff, meaning even making it to the Olympics to represent Team GB is a huge undertaking. And standing in the way of Powell’s Olympic ambitions is an obstacle that would have once seemed insurmountable. Jade Jones has been the face of GB Taekwondo since claiming Britain’s first Olympic gold in the sport as a 19-year-old at London 2012 12 years after taekwondo was included at the Games. She followed this with a successful gold-medal defence at Rio 2016, but a shock first-bout defeat at Tokyo 2020 to unheralded Iranian Kimia Alizadeh Zonouzi saw Jones’ mask of invincibility slip.
The OBE-awarded Olympian is now 30, and, with Powell 10 years her junior, the stage is set for a fascinating battle for sporting supremacy. It would make for a particularly compelling Olympic contest, but participation rules dictate that a clash between the two in Paris will never happen. There’s just one British spot available in the -57kg weight class, which means a straight shootout between Jones and Powell over the next year, with both vying for vital qualification points.
“Most people who now do taekwondo watched that moment [Jones’ London 2012 gold],” Powell says. “It was a big one for
Teenage kicks: Powell defeats Morocco’s Oumaima El Bouchti en route to winning bronze at the World Taekwondo Championships in 2019
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“I’ve taken inspiration from Jade’s journey; now we’re competitors”
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“I enjoy having control over my own narrative”
She’s no dummy: (from top) some sparring partners don’t hit back; music helps Powell relax when preparing to compete
the sport in this country. When I was a kid I used to go to seminars she did, and I’d have photos taken with her medals. That’s what I wanted for myself, and that’s what I still want. I hope that next year, with the right work, that’s what’ll happen.”
A trawl of the Olympics’ digital archives brings up a video of Powell as a 15-year-old, with the title Heroes of the Future. In it, she talks about wanting to perform better in training to impress Jones, who in turn lauds the teenager’s “star qualities that could be good for the future”. Those words have proven prescient, and now Powell’s role model is her main adversary.
“I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from her journey, and now we’re competitors,” Powell says. “She’s helped me a lot. It’s not a rivalry, but we both do our best so we can both get better. Of course, it’s more competitive as it gets close to the Olympics and
we’re doing our own thing a lot more, but in the sessions when we’re together we’re driving each other to be the best.”
The pair have sparred many times in practice at GB Taekwondo, but have fought just once competitively, with Jones narrowly beating Powell at an event in Sweden last year. They might not actually go head-to-head again before Paris, as Powell prefers to compete in the -62kg weight class, which exists in regular taekwondo competition but not as an Olympic category.
Still, the pair now increasingly train separately, and the showdown for Team GB’s sole Olympic spot feels a bit like the elephant in the ring in Manchester. It seems inevitable that tensions will rise as both world-class athletes near the moment when one will fail to make it to Paris, though Powell thinks otherwise. “It’s always been on the table, since I first started,
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Guiding force: Torann Maizeroi (right), her coach of three-and-ahalf years, believes Powell’s only obstacle in taekwondo is herself
that we’d be in the same Olympic category, but there has never been a conflict. [Jones has] always offered advice and tried to help me when I’ve asked for it. Ultimately, we both have respect for each other and there’s no clash there. We’re teammates and will keep that relationship going – I respect her and don’t want to change who I am, or act differently.”
The narrative remains a gripping one from the outside, where it appears that Powell’s role is that of underdog to Jones’ favourite. But, after a moment’s contemplation, the 20-year-old challenges that assumption.
“People who have watched [Jones] for all these years may say there’s more pressure on her; she has more to lose,” Powell says. “But for me it’s about the expectation I have for myself. I don’t see myself as less than her, or an underdog, because ability-wise I’m just as good as her. I can’t control the expectations of other people, but I can focus on the things I can control. If I focus too much on what she’s doing, I’m not going to get the best out of myself, so I just want to focus on my own journey.”
After a morning of technical training, Powell moves on to strength and conditioning work in GB Taekwondo’s sprawling fitness centre. On one side of the hall, a group of athletes are going hell for leather on spin bikes. Hunting down PBs, each time is meticulously recorded on a spreadsheet projected for all to see on the big screen as officials scrutinise the incremental gains and losses. On the other side of the gym, accompanied by a single conditioning coach, Powell unhurriedly makes her way around a series of weights stations.
A playlist titled ‘’90s House Party’ blares out of the gym’s speakers, but Powell is none the wiser, firmly cocooned in her own headphones, in her own headspace; she’d much rather listen to Tupac than N-Trance. Throughout the day, she can be spotted humming along to songs, sometimes mouthing lyrics, other times dancing. Music has become an essential part of her training regime.
Certain competitions have been punctuated by specific songs, and she immediately makes the association between her gold-medal-winning trip to the 2018 World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Playboi Carti’s Magnolia and Lil Uzi Vert’s XO Tour Llif3. Her playlists tend towards individual anthems rather than albums, representing a remarkably eclectic taste that ranges from old-school R&B to reggae, Billie Eilish to Rihanna. And, of course, there’s a bit of Aaliyah. “Some people use music to get themselves pumped up and ready to fight, Powell says, “but for me it is always about relaxing. I’m better in competition when I feel relaxed. That’s how I perform the best.”
Relaxation isn’t something that instantly comes to mind when watching the high-energy, close-quarters combat sport of taekwondo. Competitors are rewarded for landing blows – via kick or punch – to various parts of their opponent’s body
within the confines of an octagon 8m in diameter, with kicks that connect with the head scoring highest. These battles are fast and skilful. But Powell’s natural ability and athleticism make complex moves look easy as she calmly completes her training session.
Beneath this veil of serenity, there’s an undeniable steeliness. Powell’s approach – an outwardly laid-back demeanour coupled with significant technical prowess – matches that of one of her heroes, Jamaican sprint icon Usain Bolt. Powell was born in Huddersfield, but she’s proud of her Jamaican roots; she loves her grandmother’s Caribbean cooking, and when it comes to athletes it’s Bolt who stands above the rest.
“You can’t compare [Bolt] to anyone else,” Powell says. “It’s not just his achievements, but him as a person, too. His name stands for more than just sporting achievement, and he has always been real, letting his personality shine through.”
This admiration for authenticity is mirrored in Powell’s carefully curated social media output. Like many young sportswomen she understands the power that social media can have as an extension of herself.
“I enjoy having control over my own narrative,” Powell says. “I know I could be more active on social media but I don’t want to put things out there that aren’t me. I want it to be a realistic view of who I am and what my life is. You can be influenced a lot when you’re younger and my hope is that people from all sorts of communities see someone that looks like them who is reaching for excellence and showing really positive life choices.”
When she walks away from training, through that haze of sourdough, she’s able to leave taekwondo behind, instead focusing on episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix, trips to the cinema, babysitting nephews and nieces, and conversations with friends outside her taekwondo circle. But she remains conscious of her sporting position beyond training and competition. “I definitely feel a responsibility as a young, Black female athlete,” she explains, “because you really have the opportunity to inspire people. As athletes we often have to be quite selfish, because we’re driven, we’re trying to achieve a goal and constantly grafting for results. But we also need to take a step back and look at where we are, a privileged position that most people aren’t close to getting.
“When I retire, I want to look back and think I made an impact beyond my performances in competition and my medals. I also want to think about the cool stuff I’ve done. I want to be proud of how I developed as a person and how my passions developed. And hopefully I can help other people recognise their own passions and talents, too.”
Powell seems destined to be another celebrated product of GB Taekwondo’s Manchester medal factory, but the only thing identikit about her is a shared hunger for Olympic success. She expects her road to Paris to be paved with gold. “I’m driving my career and in control of it,” she says as she finishes another tough day of training. “I feel more sure than ever of what I need and who I am.”
But, even if that road to the Olympics is tinged with disappointment, expect Aaliyah Powell to simply dust herself off and try again.
The 2023 World Taekwondo Championships take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, from May 29 to June 6; worldtaekwondo.org; Instagram: @aaliyahxpowell
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“I feel a responsibility as a young, Black female athlete”
Enhance, equip, and experience your best life
Peak-to-Pacific MTB in Chile
73 AARON ROLPH AARON ROLPH
Ilean forward to scoop up my mountain bike, balancing the wheels precariously between my upper back and shoulders. My crampon-clad mountaineering boots crunch the snow underfoot, but I choke perilously for oxygen in the thin, frigid air with every tiny step.
All alone, in the dark, carrying my bike at an altitude well above 6,000m, I think, “What am I doing here?” But I bury the doubt and continue, slow and steady, toward the 6,893m summit of Ojos del Salado, the world’s highest volcano.
Reaching the top of the dormant pinnacle – South America’s secondtallest peak, straddling the border between Chile and Argentina – is just the start of my journey. My intention is to cycle to sea level – specifically the Pacific Ocean, more than 370km and a crossing of the Atacama Desert away to the west – to set a new world record for the greatest continuous off-road vertical descent by bike over seven days.
I’ve always been excited about putting the ‘big mountains’ back into mountain biking, and Ojos del Salado was the biggest on the planet that also looked rideable. The expedition would fit perfectly in my Venn diagram of skills: high-altitude mountaineering,
technical downhill mountain biking, and ultra-endurance stamina.
I arrived in Chile’s capital, Santiago, towards the end of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, and my bike, water, supplies and I were then driven 1,000km north by local tour guide Philipp Geisler to Laguna Verde, a mountain salt lake at 4,328m elevation. Surrounded by a lunar landscape pockmarked by peaks and valleys, the lagoon acted as a base camp where I was able to spend time acclimatising to the altitude and practising hike-a-bike: literally getting off, pushing and carrying the bike up steep, technical terrain.
My prep was short-lived: big snowstorms were inbound. I would have to set off earlier than planned. Aware of the dangerous side effects of not acclimatising properly – the riskiest being swelling of the brain, but more commonly headaches and vomiting –I’d have to go slow and listen to my body.
Setting off from base camp under the cover of darkness, I’m now left with no alternative but to lug my bike on my back. With every additional metre, the weight of the bike seems exponentially heavier. The face is so sheer and the snow so deep, at 6,327m it feels futile to take it any higher. I can’t help but
“There was still the small matter of the Atacama Desert – the driest nonpolar desert on Earth – to cross…”
Aaron Rolph, adventurer
74 THE RED BULLETIN
The closest city to Ojos del Salado is Copiapó, a nine-hour drive from Chile’s capital, Santiago
think it a shame to miss the summit, having come all this way.
Abandoning my bike, I continue on foot. I’m amazed at how fresh I feel with the weight physically and metaphorically off my shoulders. The climb flies by in just a few hours, and after an exposed ascent up the final rocky arête, I take my last few steps and drink in the 360° panoramic views of the Atacama region’s numerous other – albeit dwarfed –volcanic giants. But I still have a job to do.
I make quick work of the descent, galloping down to where I left my noble steed. Looking at a world that endlessly
plummets beneath me, I push off into the white abyss. I try to manage my speed, but both wheels struggle for traction in the mid-afternoon slush. My heart is racing from adrenaline attempting to supply my muscles with oxygen. Although you don’t have to take the same precautions when descending from altitude, I’m forced to pause and gasp painfully for air; this is one of the most physically brutal things I’ve ever attempted.
Having focused on the trail for what feels like a lifetime, I reach the largely snow-free lower slopes and open up,
tackling the technical descent head-on. After four-and-a-half hours and a formidable 25km downhill through rock, sand and ice, I reach Refugio Claudio Lucero – a basic mountain hut with limited amenities, and my home for the night. But there’s still the small matter of the Atacama Desert – the driest non-polar desert on Earth – to cross.
I awake the next morning to zero signs of civilisation – no shops, people, or even sources of water – so I must carry everything required for the next 250km. I fit my bikepacking bags, change to clipless pedals, and cram any
Down time: with Ojos del Salado in the background, Rolph rides the Atacama Desert; (opposite) a stretch of smooth tarmac offers a brief respite from dusty trails; (opening page) Rolph and his bike at a height of 6,327m, where he began his descent
THE RED BULLETIN 75
supplies I can onto my bike and into my backpack. A day after departing the refuge, my food and water dwindles quicker than planned, and I haven’t seen another soul. I hide behind a large boulder, shielding myself from the wind, and devour my two last cereal bars while considering my options. The nearest settlement is 120km away, but the longer I spend in the desert the more dangerous this journey will become. I make a big call to push on through the night.
The reward of finding una cerveza (beer!) in the next town keeps me motivated. The sky transforms into a blanket of stars. Many kilometres from any light pollution, each is a thousand times brighter than the head torch illuminating the road ahead. After a 16-hour stretch, I stumble into the glowing city of Copiapó, where I rest until morning.
Ojos del Salado is the world’s highest volcano. Sitting in the remote Atacama Desert, temperatures rarely exceed 10 ° C at low altitudes, but arid conditions mean there’s little permanent snow. Ascents with a guide can be made from the Chilean or Argentinian side, and take between nine to 15 days – the Chilean option provides an easier route. toursbylocals.com
My legs feel as heavy as lead, but with the finish line almost in sight, and able to ditch some weight in a hotel, I coax myself back onto the bike. The smooth tarmac road meanders around the countless sand dunes of this dramatic and unforgiving landscape. Then, suddenly, I’m hit with the distinctive smell of fresh sea air.
Exactly 373.4km from the peak of the world’s highest volcano, I reach my finish line. The waves lap the beach and I waste no time throwing off layers and plunging into the cool waters. As I close my eyes and allow myself to sink to the bottom for a few moments, I can’t think of a better conclusion to the world’s greatest mountain-bike descent. Aaron Rolph is a British adventurer and photographer based in the Alps, as well as the founder of the British Adventure Collective; britishadventurecollective.com
Long haul: (clockwise from top left) shared base camp at the salt lake of Laguna Verde; Rolph rides through snow at an altitude of more than 6,000m; storms loom as night falls; zero phone signal means calling in weather reports by satellite-powered Garmin inReach
76 THE RED BULLETIN AARON
ROLPH, ADOBE STOCK AARON ROLPH
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DRENCHED IN THE UK. MADE IN GERMANY
How a wet riding tour inspired an industry-leading luggage manufacturer
Awet afternoon in southern England, 1981. Hartmut Ortlieb sits by the roadside with his bike, resigned to another uncomfortable night in a damp sleeping bag. Then the young German notices a truck go past – despite the continuous rain, the load inside its tarpaulin would reach its destination dry. An idea is born.
Returning to Germany, Hartmut began experimenting with truck tarpaulin, his mother’s sewing machine, and webbing straps and hooks from a local hardware store. Early bags and prototypes were tested by him and his friends; they were a hit. By 1982, he had founded his eponymous company in his parents’ garage. Two years later saw the switch from sewing materials together to high-frequency welding – a new and unique process that left the bags much more waterproof and durable. In 1987, the now iconic BackRoller – a roll-closing cycle pannier ideal for everything from the daily
commute to a round-the-world epic – was released. It was followed by a waterproof messenger bag, the Packman, still in the collection today.
Although the company has upgraded from the ORTLIEB family house to a carbon-neutral factory in the Bavarian town of Heilsbronn, every piece is still 100 per cent made in Germany, with 70 per cent of materials also sourced from the country, minimising the carbon
footprint of each bag in the process. Four decades on from its humble beginnings, the name ORTLIEB is now synonymous with functional, durable, waterproof luggage that’s at home in any environment. And if an item does stop functioning at any point, ORTLIEB is more than happy to restore it to its former glory at one of the company’s local repair centres, extending your luggage’s life and keeping it out of landfill.
With a range that includes everything from waterproof cycling bags and everyday backpacks to travel luggage, there’s sure to be an ORTLIEB for you. And it’ll provide a lifetime of safe, dry and comfortable kit, wherever your next adventure takes you. ortlieb.com
Thanks to Stefan Amato at Pannier.cc for the inspiration
VENTURE How To BREAK Rack and roll
From pubs to pay-per-view TV, pool is now a world-class sport. Here’s how the sharks pot the big-money prizes
1. Pick a cue
If you don’t own a cue, take all the available ones and roll them on the table to see which is straightest. It’s a bonus if the tip is half-decent and there’s chalk to brush it with.
Jayson Shaw’s childhood wasn’t like most.
The son of a English professional eight-ball pool player, he picked up his first cue at the age of five. At weekends he’d follow his dad to events around the UK, while he’d use any free time practising at the table in his family’s pub in Glasgow.
“When I didn’t have school, I’d go there at nine in the morning and stay until 12 at night,” Shaw says. If he wasn’t playing at the pub, you’d find him at the snooker halls or cutting his teeth in local leagues and competitions.
Now 34, Shaw has been a professional for more than a decade. His favoured game is nine-ball pool, a more difficult spin on traditional eight-ball – players must consecutively pot numbered balls in order from one through nine, with the winner sinking the nine. “You’re only playing for one ball at a time, so if you don’t land the cue ball in a certain spot, it’s game over,” he says.
Fortunately for Shaw, this doesn’t happen too often. His titles include the 2017 US Open and five Mosconi Cups
2. Make a bridge
Using your non-dominant hand, make an ‘OK’ sign with your thumb and index finger. Put the cue through the gap, resting it on your middle finger, and create a tripod with your spare fingers.
3. Rack ’em up
In an eight-ball break, hit the middle of the rack straight on to minimise the chances of the cue ball ricocheting into a pocket. Aim the tip for the centre of the cue ball
– pool’s version of golf’s Ryder Cup, where teams of the best US and European players battle it out for North Atlantic bragging rights each winter.
4. Find your balance
With your dominant hand, find the point where the cue balances in an open palm. Grip the cue 2cm behind this point.
5. Strike the stance
Stand square to the cue ball with your dominant foot 60cm behind the other. The cue should be directly below your chin.
6. Perfect your swing
Stay still. The only part that moves
Now based in West Haven, Connecticut, where he owns his own pool room, Shaw might not undertake the same mammoth practise sessions as when he was a kid (“It’s probably about six-to-eight hours a day”), but he’s prepared for any eventuality. “It’s about working on aspects of the game. I’ll practise my break for an hour, and then my safety game, before putting it all together, so that when these situations come up in big events I know what to do.”
Those ‘big events’ now sell out arenas from London to Las Vegas, and pool has followed darts’ trajectory in breaking out from pubs. “Pool came from bars, but it’s not like that any more. You’re travelling the world, playing in front of thousands of people, live on TV. The prize money and TV coverage are getting bigger. It’s no longer something where you walk into a pub, have a beer and hit balls.”
“Pool came from bars, but it’s not like that any more”
Jayson Shaw, pro pool player
is your dominant arm, which should swing loosely like a pendulum.
7. Make the break Hit the cue ball firmly, but keep the connection smooth and soft. Follow through with the cue after hitting the ball.
4 6 7 5 THE RED BULLETIN 79
“You’re a girl, you can’t play FIFA.” Twentyone-year-old Twitch streamer Sara Guzo is sharing some of the hate she receives in comments and direct messages on the platform.
The London-based content creator started playing the beautiful game IRL at the age of seven. When she got her first console – a PlayStation Portable – three years later, FIFA 12 was an obvious “go-to game”. For the next decade, Guzo’s two loves went handin-hand – on the pitch, she played in midfield for the Millwall Lionesses – and when she retired from football in 2021, she was inspired by a friend to swap sliding tackles for streaming.
Channelling the energy of the real-life game as she reacted to FIFA’s on-screen highs and lows, Guzo’s Twitch stream built up an audience. In September 2022, she was signed by esports team SAF Global Gaming as a partnered streamer; she became part of the EA Creator Network, and this year she has been invited to compete in an Esports Championship League allwomen FIFA tournament. But Guzo still has to battle trolls.
“You get used to it and ignore it,” she says. “But as a girl, if you want to be a content creator and you see other content creators getting quite a lot of hate, you don’t feel encouraged to do it.”
Things are finally shifting in the right direction. The latest iteration of the game, FIFA 23, includes the top English and French women’s leagues in its Kick Off mode for the first time. Also, Chelsea and Australia striker Sam Kerr (pictured above, top, in FIFA 23) appears on the cover of the game’s Ultimate Edition – the first time a female player has been the face of FIFA in its three-decade history.
This is all positive to Guzo, who also points to Women’s EURO 2022, when a record 50 million people tuned in to
Levelling the playing field
Women’s football has grabbed the world’s attention. Now it’s time for FIFA’s female players to gain recognition
watch England beat Germany in the final and end 56 years of hurt. “They’ve shown that women are actually good at football. I think it’ll be a similar thing with FIFA – by publicising more women’s tournaments, it’ll get that push.”
In June, Guzo will compete against 11 other regional and global qualifiers in London at the first-ever international female FIFA LAN event. Also, FIFAe, the governing body’s esports arm, has launched its FameHerGame campaign, aiming to build grassroots opportunities and safe spaces for women FIFA players.
Guzo hopes that she and other pioneering female pro FIFA streamers and players can boost the confidence of
girls looking to get into the game, while also providing feedback and advice on team selection and skills.
Play your way
Each team in FIFA has preselected formations and players, but Guzo says it’s
important to ensure the tactics and team selection match your favoured approach. “If you play a slower gameplay, make sure you’re not rushing your passes and that your formation suits that style,” she says. Likewise, if you’re dipping into the world of streaming, find a niche that comes naturally. “I’m a calm person, but when it comes to the weekend and I have to play FUT Champs [FIFA Ultimate Team Champions, the game’s most competitive mode], I get so mad. It’s always the game’s fault, not mine, but it brings in a good audience.”
Perfect your finish
Guzo plays for three hours a day and uses the rewardsbased FUT Division Rivals game mode to refine her strategies. But if there’s a specific skill she wants to learn, she’ll fire up the game’s practice arena. “When I was learning how to green-time a shot [perfectly time a finish], I used the arena.” In essence, you tap the shoot button a second time as the player’s foot meets the ball, making a shot much harder to save. “It’s much better than your usual shot, but time it correctly or it can go anywhere.”
Case the competition
With each new edition of FIFA, gameplay is altered, and things that previously worked may no longer be a surefire route to a goal. “In FIFA 23, the gameplay is much slower, so you have to adapt and be more patient – you can’t just run down the wing and cross it in,” Guzo says. Watching the competitive side of FIFA allows her to see how other gamers have adjusted their play, and she’ll reach out to pros to talk tactics. “It’s a good community for an extra field of information,” she says. The ECL Female FIFA Cup LAN will be held at the Excel Esports Gaming Vault in east London on June 2-3. Entry is free. Follow Sara Guzo on Twitch: twitch.tv/saraguzo
“More publicity for women’s FIFA will give us that push”
Sara Guzo, Twitch streamer
80 THE RED BULLETIN CHARLIE ALLENBY
RACE Sim it to win it
Can’t afford your own F1 car? Here’s the next best thing
A force of 6g makes breathing arduous, turns limbs to dead weights, and will lead to unconsciousness if sustained for 20 seconds or more. A Formula 1 driver must battle this pressure when cornering, while simultaneously making split-second decisions on braking, gear choice, and how best to navigate a 2m-wide car through an inch-perfect overtake.
Unless you’re a 10-year-old cutting your teeth in professional kart-racing, or you have a billionaire dad who can buy you a spot at the top table, it’s unlikely you’ll ever encounter this degree of gravitational pull IRL. But the V-Zero from Kent-based simulator specialist Vesaro runs it close.
Designed in collaboration with F1, the state-of-theart racing rig produces an immersive, multisensory experience thanks to its D-BOX haptic system (the simulator feedback system approved by the FIA, F1’s governing body). This pulses vibrations through the bucket seat and the MOZA FSR wheel every time you hit an apex’s rumble strips (or veer into a gravel trap).
At £38,622, a complete V-Zero is a tad cheaper than the roughly £12million price tag of an F1 car, but if your allowance doesn’t stretch that far, you can take it for a test spin at the F1 Arcade, the official F1-sanctioned simulator experience in London. F1 Arcade, London; f1arcade.com; vesaro.com
THE RED BULLETIN 81 CHARLIE ALLENBY
The V-Zero runs the same Assetto Corsa simulator software used by F1 teams
Struggling to achieve your sporting best? As this professional athlete discovered, the solution could be mental, not physical
The life of a pro athlete might look fun, but the reality can be anything but. Hours are spent practising, perfecting, and finding marginal gains – even free time is devoted to thinking about it. Luke Doherty knows this first-hand. At 11, he made it his ambition to be a rugby union pro. “I trained daily, sometimes two or three times a day, and played for three or four different teams every week,” Doherty says.
He was good, too, playing for England’s under-18s. Then, one morning, it was as if a switch was flicked: “I played a match for England, and the next day I thought, ‘I don’t want to play again.’ My drive had gone. I’d burnt myself out.”
Doherty left rugby at just 20, but his all-in approach followed him into academia where, having completed two law degrees, he realised he was burning himself out again.
Then a chance visit to the London Buddhist Centre set his life on a different path.
“I bought a mindfulness session for a friend, thinking, ‘It’s definitely not for me.’ But when I went with him, there was an immediate release of pressure. I felt lighter, clearer, more balanced.” Unknowingly, he’d been using sport as an outlet for other issues: “I had pushed down my emotions, but now they’d caught up with me. I had to face the things fuelling my need for success.”
Doherty researched how meditative-based techniques can calm the nervous system, helping achieve the mental flow state needed to compete at the top. Now 35, he runs his own coaching business, Mindful Peak Performance, sharing the positive changes mindfulness can bring to performance, whether that’s with professional sports teams
such as Harlequins RFC and Brentford FC or workplaces and business leaders.
Target the triggers
Athletes often don’t want to admit vulnerability, but unrealistic expectations make them feel everything hinges on success. To establish a “more honest connection” with themselves, Doherty helps clients locate the overbearing sources of pressure: “Is it to
do with sport? Is it on the day of performing, or the night before? Are they experiencing pressure in their personal life?” Then he creates a suite of mindfulness tools they can use to calm their nervous system when confronted by triggers.
Drop the pressure
Mindfulness can unlock performance that might otherwise be held back by the body’s natural preservation instincts. Skateboarders, for example, push themselves beyond their comfort zone despite the sport’s potential dangers. Doherty has worked with Team GB pros to help connect their minds to their bodies rather than thoughts and judgments, enabling them to let go. “It’s about moving away from anxious thoughts to perform with less pressure.”
The breath test
“Meditation practices can’t be done by reading a script,” says Doherty of an individual’s needs, but he adds that a standard 10-minute session has three key phases. First, you “count one number on each inhale until you get to five, then repeat, focusing on your breath”. After this, focus on your breath’s natural rhythm, before becoming aware of where you feel it in your body: “Each time your mind wanders, train it back on your breathing.”
Power of three
Doherty says a three-minute pre-workout meditation aids his training, allowing him to “come away from the business of the day” and connect with his body and feelings. Mindfulness can help post-exercise, too: “A five-minute meditation focusing on releasing pressure and letting go of judgements can make a huge difference. I worked with Harlequins on recovery meditation, which allows the nervous system to exit fight-and-flight mode, so they could heal their bodies and recover quicker.”
“A five-minute meditation can make a difference”
Luke Doherty, mindfulness coach
82 THE RED BULLETIN
PJ BAUDOIN, SAM ROBERTS
Gravel. All-road. Groad. Whatever you want to call it, you would have to be living under a rock to have missed cycling’s ‘big new thing’. Drop-bar bikes are now regularly encountered on trails where mountain bikes once ruled. Whisper it, but you might have even dabbled yourself.
It’s easy to see gravel’s appeal. You expect a bike to be at home on most cross-country terrain; that gets you to and from off-road sections quickly and comfortably, expanding the exploration potential of every ride. No two outings have to be the same, no paths out of bounds.
Despite this, there have been limits – especially when the trail turns technical. This is because, historically, the majority of gravel bikes have been designed and built by road-leaning manufacturers. While tyre clearance might be widened and handlebars flared, the core of most other brands’ designs is a road bike in plaid flannel clothing.
The Szepter from YT Industries turns this on its head. Renowned for creating boundary-pushing trail, downhill and enduro mountain bikes, the German direct-toconsumer brand has channelled
YT Industries’ Szepter tears up the all-road rule book,
an off-road take on the drop-bar discipline
its off-road expertise into its own versatile, rally-inspired drop-bar design. “The Szepter is a funoriented gravel bike,” explains YT’s senior designer, Máté Koroknai. “We wanted the bike to look remarkable and boost rider confidence on the trail by building the frame around a suspension fork. The Szepter is
unique and intentionally very different from other gravel bikes you can find.”
The result is a range that has gravity in its genes. The geometry of the carbon-fibre frame mirrors the angles usually seen on bikes designed for descending, giving you control to tackle technical terrain at speed. But it retains the ability to keep up with roadies on the asphalt thanks to its sleek, aerodynamically influenced tube shape.
The confidence-inspiring features extend to its components, too. The Core 4 model features the RockShox Rudy Ultimate XPLR suspension fork, while SRAM’s Reverb AXS XPLR dropper post helps you master those nail-biting dirt descents. Finished with a wide-ranging SRAM 12-speed drivetrain that can handle any punchy inclines, the Szepter isn’t just YT’s first gravel bike, it’s a realisation of what gravel should actually be. yt-industries.com
Born different: YT Industries’ Szepter offers a gravel-bike experience like no other
Try out the Szepter yourself by experiencing YT’s flagship showroom in Guildford, Surrey
RUPERT FOWLER/YT INDUSTRIES
Set the Pace
Street-smart kit that will have you pounding the pavements, not running for cover
Photography MADS PERCH
2XU Light Speed MidRise compression tights, uk.2xu.com;
STANCE Run Light Staple Crew socks, stance.eu.com; UNDER ARMOUR Flow Velociti Elite shoes, underarmour.co.uk
SALOMON Sense Pro 10 Race Flag vest, salomon.com; THRUDARK Force Drirelease tee and Force Velocity 2-in-1 Shorts G2, thrudark.com
SHOKZ OpenRun Pro headphones, shokz.com;
Windshell jacket and Essent High-Rise 26” leggings, arcteryx.com;
OSPREY Duro 1.5 hydration running vest, ospreyeurope.com;
SWATCH Big Bold Bioceramic watch, swatch.com; STANCE Franchise Crew socks, stance.eu.com;
SAUCONY Ride 16 shoes, saucony.com
CIELE ALZCap, eu.cieleathletics.com; OAKLEY Corridor sunglasses, oakley.com; SKULLCANDY Push Active true wireless earbuds, skullcandy.co.uk; 2XU Aero anorak, uk.2xu.com
66°NORTH Dyngja beanie, 66north.com; ON Climate shirt, Performance tights 7/8 and Cloudsurfer shoes, on-running.com; STANCE Run Crew socks, stance.eu.com
CIELE GOCap SC, eu.cieleathletics.com; BELSTAFF Balance jacket, belstaff.com; SCOTT SPORTS Scott Shield Compact Light Sensitive sunglasses, Endurance LT shorts and Scott Speed Carbon RC shoes, scott-sports. com; STANCE Run Crew socks, stance.eu.com; SUUNTO 9 Peak Pro watch, suunto.com
THRUDARK Tech socks, thrudark.com; SALOMON Spectur shoes, salomon.com
SHOKZ OpenRun headphones, shokz. com; NEW BALANCE Heat Grid Half Zip top, newbalance.co.uk;
UNDER ARMOUR Run
Anywhere short-sleeve tee and Run Anywhere shorts, underarmour. co.uk; SUUNTO 9 Peak Pro watch, suunto.com;
STANCE Run Light Staple Crew socks, stance.eu.com; ON Cloudventure shoes, on-running.com
92 THE RED BULLETIN
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
The “world’s most exciting track meet” returns to London this May. Here’s how you can be part of the action…
When you imagine a fun night out, a track meet might not be the first thing that comes to mind: the only sound the echo of shoes hitting synthetic rubber, the only drop the misplaced passing of a baton.
But one event in London is changing this. In fact, it has been dubbed “the world’s most exciting track meet”, and for good reason. Started 10 years ago by local running club Highgate Harriers, Night of the 10,000m PB’s adds festival vibes and a raucous atmosphere to a traditional track session – and, as the name suggests, lots of personal bests as athletes are cheered by baying crowds to the line. Since its first edition in 2013, it has developed something of a cult following and is now a track meet on the radar of athletes and spectators alike.
Shining a light on the oftenoverlooked distance, Night of the 10,000m PB’s puts the longest trackbased running race front and centre. Unlike TV coverage, which dips in and out of 10K races by cutting to another failed attempt at the high jump, fans get the chance to watch a race from the firing of the start gun and see how it ebbs and flows, with the lead changing numerous times throughout and those who have played it smart by conserving energy performing tactical
surges as the finish line comes into view. The action isn’t limited to the track either, with live music, on-track tunnels, fireworks, food trucks and the iconic back-straight DJs also adding to the atmosphere.
Curious to experience it in person? You’re in luck. Swiss sports brand On has teamed up with Night of the 10,000m PB’s as part of a brand-new global series, On Track Nights –a curated selection of high-energy track meets that aim to change the way audiences experience racing. Night of the 10,000m PB’s is free for all spectators to attend and takes place at Parliament Hill Athletics Track on May 20, 2023. Find out more at ontracknights.com
NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PB’S
This annual 25-lap athletics meet is serious business – as well as hosting races for runners of all calibres, it ends with the UK Athletics 10,000m Championships and the time trials for the World Championships. But it’s also about fun, hence the tag ‘The Glastonbury of 10K running’. The parallels are clear: it’s televised on the BBC, has live music and DJs, and there’s #Lane3BeerNCheer (stand in the third lane with an ale and cheer on Olympic hopefuls), lactic tunnels of love (more drinking in marquee’d stretches of the track) and even circus entertainment. And spectator entry is totally free. Nothing like Glastonbury, then. Parliament Hill Athletics Track, London; nightofthe10kpbs.com
May to 27 July
In 1991, jazz musicians Janine Irons and Gary Crosby founded Tomorrow’s Warriors to help young Black artists enter the music industry. This tour sees nine acts – Maddy Coombs, Amy Gadiaga, Donovan Haffner, Cassius Cobbson (below), Oreglo, Jam String Collective, David Kayode, Kagura and Frontline – perform at venues across London. tomorrowswarriors.org
RED BULL CONTESTED
Witness some of the world’s best Fortnite players battling live. This is the game’s first major UK LAN event – a 100-player solos format, with the likes of MrSavage, Th0masHD, Pinq, Wolfiez and Veno on the roster. Better still, take part – open online qualifiers will be happening on May 20 and 21. For more details, head to redbull.co.uk/contested
LIFE & BASKETBALL
It’s probably not sound parenting to nickname your child ‘Lethal Shooter’, but that’s what Chris Matthews’ dad called him. Today, ‘Lethal’ is the go-to shooting coach for the best players in the NBA. This documentary on Red Bull TV (subtitled The Rise of Lethal Shooter) reveals his other lessons – the personal ones he learned on his way to the top. redbull.com
VENTURE Calendar 24
94 THE RED BULLETIN
May to 16 July
RESOLVE COLLECTIVE: THEM’S THE BREAKS
The brutalist architecture of the Barbican emerged from a site devastated during the Blitz. Now, those concrete walls are the foundation for more renewal. RESOLVE, a design collective that employs architecture and engineering to address social change, has ultrasonically mapped the building’s structure to visualise the art – built from reclaimed materials foraged nearby – sprawled across the exhibition space. Visitors are encouraged to touch the installations, meditate and work among them, and commune with artists and thinkers in the space. In July, they can apply to ‘bagsy’ the materials from the art pieces. In short, everything, much like life, must go. Barbican, London; barbican.org.uk
May onwards RED BULL SYMPHONIC ATLANTA
In November last year, rap superstar Rick Ross played a sold-out concert in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. No surprise, except the audience were dressed in black tie, and Ross was backed by a 50-piece ensemble (the all-Black Orchestra Noir) and a gospel choir. The show was magnificent, but then, as he says in this Red Bull TV documentary on what it took to orchestrate this musical maestrosity, “As a youngster, I always knew I was a Black Beethoven.” redbull.com
HOT SAUCE FESTIVAL
The Scoville Scale is a grading system for chillis that measures their levels of capsaicin (the stuff that makes them hot) – vital visitor information for a carnival of condiment carnage hosting 40 traders of diabolical dressings. Festivities extend to a spicy limbo contest, karaoke while eating a Scotch bonnet (up to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units), and, thankfully, beer. Peckham, London;hotsaucesociety.co.uk
VENTURE Calendar THE RED BULLETIN 95 JERRY
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The Red Bulletin is published in six countries. This is the cover of our French edition for June, which features 24-year-old Greek tennis sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas. For more stories beyond the ordinary, go to: redbulletin.com
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The Red Bulletin UK. ABC certified distribution 139,678 (Jan-Dec 2022)
After a gruelling event or training session, in theory it’s important to start your recovery as soon as possible to help manage and minimise muscle fatigue. But the reality can often make this difficult.
If you’re recuperating from an intense workout and don’t have the luxury of a professional support team to hand, you’ll also be in charge of
nutrition, cooling down, and potentially even travel arrangements. In this environment, it’s easy for the tiresome necessities of foam rolling and stretching to fall down the pecking order, and it’s common to wake up the day after with legs that feel like lead.
There is a scientifically proven solution, though – and it doesn’t involve hiring your own masseur. Research shows that compression garments improve circulation and speed up recovery. But not all compression wear is made equal, as muscle stimulation specialist Compex’s Ayre compression boots prove. An elite-level piece of kit that’s adaptable, easy to use and completely portable, they’re the ultimate lowerbody recovery tool for those looking to say sayonara to sore legs.
Each boot has four separate compression chambers, which can be inflated simultaneously or one-byone to a range of pressures – up to a maximum of 120mmHg. When in use, the pressure pulses dynamically, gently stimulating muscles to flush out
the bad stuff (waste, carbon dioxide, lactate) and replenish them with the much-needed nutrients and oxygen.
This would all count for nothing if you could only use them at home or back in a hotel room. Fortunately, Compex Ayre boots are completely wireless, meaning you don’t have to be sitting next to a plug socket to start your recovery. Their rechargeable lithium-ion battery holds enough power for three hours of use, and if they do run out of juice, they can still be used while charging, allowing you to continue your recovery while sitting at a desk or watching TV.
Secure and comfortable when worn, the boots are finished with highquality exterior and interior linings that are easy to clean, meaning any unwanted odours can be kept in check – ideal if your recovery starts before you’ve had a chance to shower…
For more information on Compex Ayre boots, visit compex.com/uk/compex-ayre
How Compex Ayre compression boots take the strain out of stretching
Must-pack tool: Compex Ayre compression boots make post-training recovery easy
Adventure philosophy from BRENDAN LEONARD
“I’ve researched and used plenty of outdoor gear over the past couple of decades of adventuring and watched a handful of trends come and go, and new materials and designs come into fashion. And I’ve owned several down jackets, which are still, almost as a rule, made from comically fragile materials. A good down jacket, depending on where you live, is its own fashion statement. In certain areas of the world, owning a brand-new one with no duct-tape patches and no stains around the cuffs or along the front zip is a sign you haven’t done much adventuring (or at least not using that particular jacket). Whenever shopping for a new down jacket, I look at the available colours, and the first thing I consider is: how would that look with some subtle brownish-black accents along the forearms and down the front?”
The next issue of THE RED BULLETIN is out on June 13
98 THE RED BULLETIN
MIND SET WIN
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THE RED BULLETIN 06/2023