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Fort William’s Mikayla Parton has become the sixth recipient of the Fort William Mountain Festival’s Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture.
The festival’s youth ambassador award, sponsored by West Highland College UHI, was established in 2015 to celebrate adventurous young people, the landscapes they choose to explore and the outdoor pursuits in which they excel.
The young winner needs to have shown resilience and determination to succeed within their chosen area of expertise, shown results through their own efforts and ideas, given back to their community, whilst being thought of as an example of excellence by others.
Mikayla, a 23-year-old Scottish elite downhill racer, epitomises these winning principles. Her meteoric rise to the top of the international downhill mountain bike race scene, from riding her first trail bike in 2015 to placing fifth at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships 2020, can be attributed to an obvious raw talent, constant hard work, dedicated training, motivation, focus and a dogged determination for success.
‘I am pretty shocked and very grateful to receive this fantastic award,’ she said.
‘It’s pretty cool to have my name alongside the likes of Shauna Coxsey (2018). It was very unexpected and still is. Thank you so much to the Mountain Festival.’
Mikayla was late to the sport of mountain bike racing. She got her first downhill bike, aged about 17, competing in her first race at Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders just a week later. From that moment, she was addicted – the adrenaline, the tracks, the people, the noticeable progression.
Her first downhill race win came at Nevis Range in May 2017. After multiple wins over the next year and a half in the Senior Women’s category, she made the giant leap to the Elite racing circuit.
In 2019, Mikayla was crowned Scottish Downhill Champion and secured her first Elite podium finish – second place in the final round of the UK National Downhill Series. She competed in her first race overseas and in her first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup races.
Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive, West Highland College UHI, said: ‘We are delighted this year’s recipient is not only an Alumni from our School of Adventure Studies, but that Mikayla remains committed to her sport and her own development. It’s what this award is all about.’
An extremely talented professional downhill racer, Mikayla is known on the international racing circuit as a ‘privateer’. She doesn’t have the backing and benefits of a factory racing team, rather she has the support of a few loyal sponsors including Greenpower, Nevis Range, Trek Bikes and Endura. She foots the bills for her pro-racing career herself, making her own travel plans and logistics arrangements and keeping her bike race-ready, whilst calling in favours wherever she can.
Chris O’Brien, chief executive officer of Nevis Range, said: ‘We are very proud to have Mikayla as part of the Nevis Range family. She is a true inspiration to the mountain biking community of Fort William.’
Despite the pandemic in 2020, Mikayla had a fantastic race season. She was Great Britain’s highest placed Women’s Elite finisher at her first UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, at Leogang, Austria, in an impressive fifth place, with two top ten results on the World Cup circuit.
To make ends meet, she is a soap scientist, handmaking soap and skincare products for The Highland Soap Company. She has also been part of the Nevis Range Ski School team for many years, working as an instructor in the winter.