Tory Nyhaug

Everybody loves to do what they’re good at, but the very best athletes work on what they're weaker at. 

Tory Nyhaug

If you could describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?

Nice, Funny, Focused

What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in your career/life? What were the tools that were pivotal in overcoming this? How have you learned from it, how have you changed?

I’d say the biggest obstacle I’ve overcome is anxiety/depression.

I’ve gone through some really difficult times the last few years, and I feel calmer, happier, stronger, smarter and better off in life because of them. 

My family and close friends helped me get through them, as well as going to a psychologist. I’ve learned techniques and tools to handle these kinds of emotions and irrational thoughts, and I have a greater appreciation and happiness for myself, life, family, friends, and what I get to do.

If you could go back and tell your 12 year old self something, what would it be?

Have a playful attitude towards life and enjoy each experience.  Enjoy the little things every day that you love, and no matter what everything’s gonna work out and be okay, don’t sweat the small things and keep things in perspective.  Take things as they come and deal with them as you need to.

What is your advice for young BMX riders wanting to “make it” ? 

Just enjoy riding your bike and improving yourself.  The thrill I’ve always gotten out of riding is proving to myself I can improve and better myself in racing.  I think if you love what you do, work hard, focus and take it seriously when you need to, the rest will fall into place.  I also think when you get a bit older and start training and have it as a career, focus on your weaknesses.

Everybody loves to do what they’re good at, but the very best athletes work on what they're weaker at. 

Be ready to be uncomfortable while you’re trying to improve something, and enjoy the challenge.

What is something the majority of people don’t know about you?

I’m actually really shy in social settings.  When I was younger I was really scared to talk to people, especially people I didn’t know, and do interviews/media anything like that.  I would absolutely dread it. I had to really work hard and be uncomfortable to improve it.

What does “Project Athlete” mean to you?  How do you relate to it?

Aren’t we all projects? In life/sport, I feel like we are always learning/improving/growing as people.

You have started a podcast called “Coffee Chatter” with one of your biggest competitors/best friends.  Tell us a bit about it, and why our readers should listen! :) 

Yes its a lot of fun! I started listening to podcasts probably 2 years ago, motocross podcasts, as I’m a big fan of that sport.  And at the end of last year I wanted to start my own podcast, James said he’d do it with me, and so at the beginning of this year we just went for it.  It’s honestly a lot of fun and gives me a thrill when I do it.

It’s become popular in the BMX World as we have riders on as guests and chat BMX/Sport/Life all that.  It’s also a fun way for people to get to know the real us, and the riders, as its raw and unfiltered.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be a nice guy, great athlete, even better person.

What is the single, best realization you have ever had?

That anxiety is just anxiety, it’s not real. Irrational thoughts aren’t true.  I can just live my life happy and thinking clearly regardless. That really changed my life.

What is something beautiful that you see every day?

A photo of my girlfriend on my I-Phone background.

Do you believe in sport specialization? Why or why not?

Yes, but when you’re older and not when you’re a young teenager or kid.  I played Hockey and Lacrosse growing up along with racing BMX, and I stopped lacrosse at 16 and Hockey at 18.  Enjoy sport! Kids that specialize too early, or are forced to, I think is a shame because kids should enjoy and learn from a variety of sports that they love. 

Parents, if a coach is pressuring your kid to specialize in a sport at a young age, they probably don’t have your kid’s best interests at heart.

BMX is a very high intensity, adrenaline rushing sport.  What does the start line feel like? How do you find “calm in the chaos”? 

Definitely is.  I just focus on some simple cues, and do my best to keep things simple.  I always feel nervous at a race, so I just accept that and focus on what I need to do.  And remember to breath!

BMX racing is such a high impact, injury prone sport, and recently you suffered a head injury that has kept you out of racing for a while.  How how this recovery been? What is your best advice to other athletes dealing with head injuries?

Recovery has been long and tough, but gone really well.  I had symptoms on and off for a year really. I saw a concussion specialist for months and we went through specific rehab for it, helped a lot.  I feel recovered now and I’m back into riding full speed.

My best advice would be to take your time, and only return when YOU FEEL RECOVERED. There will be people who say “you’re fine” but really only you know when you are, people still take concussions lightly which is still mind blowing. So take your time, recover, be smart, and take care of yourself first before sport.

You have been to two Olympics, and won a Pan American Games Gold Medal.  What is your personal key to success. Has this evolved over the years?

I think self-belief and a never give up attitude.  No matter how Ive felt, how fast I’ve been, anything like that I’ve always competed until the very end and left it all out there on the track.  There are a lot of fast guys, but only the very best get out there and truly battle every lap no matter what. I think I’ve had a lot of success because every time I get out there on the track, I’m absolutely all in.

You have been open about mental illness and your personal experiences with it. Why is this important to you, and how has speaking out helped your struggles? 

It’s important to be open about it because I learned early on that the only way for me to overcome it was to talk about it and seek help.  The more I did that, the more I improved. I’m at a point now where I’m doing really well, I’m happy, and I know how to deal with things better.  I still need help from time to time and have my moments of course, but overall I feel like I can handle things way better and take things as they come. 

Another big reason why I’m open about it is because I learned that a lot of people deal with it, and pretty much everybody does to some degree, and if those people can see an Olympic athlete or someone really successful come out and say yeah I’m human I struggle too, it could help them immensely and inspire them to seek help. 

Since I’ve been open about my mental health struggles, I’ve received tons of message/support from people saying they like that I share, and they deal with it too.

I love to help people and let them know it’s okay.

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