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Interview with Haro's Jason Donnell, by Maniac Mike Gul
MANIAC: This is Mike Gul coming to you from the 1999 ABA Grand Nationals. I'm here with Jason Donnell. Jason, how old are you?
DONNELL: I'll be 24 on December 12.
MANIAC: How long have you been racing for?
DONNELL: I've been racing since I was 5 years old. I don't know…do the math. Eighteen years?
MANIAC: Who are your current sponsors?
DONNELL: As of January 1st of next year, my sponsors will be Haro, Adidas, Answer forks, Smith goggles and eyewear. Other than that I haven't sealed any more deals so far.
MANIAC: How do you feel about making the change from Huffy to Haro? Are you looking forward to the year 2000?
DONNELL: When I first heard about Huffy which was the Tuesday after the Lake Perris nationals, I was pretty devastated. Huffy was my dream. I year ago at the ABA Grands I put in a good performance and that's how I picked up the Huffy ride. I thought I had hit my peak. I got along with my team manager and my teammates…it was just an ideal situation and so I was really bummed out. But the more I think about it I'm really psyched about Haro. Haro has always been looked upon as an elite ride and my teammates and team manager are really cool, so I'm really excited about the year 2000.
MANIAC: Congratulations on getting that ride. As far as the 1999 Grand Nationals are going so far…I know we just got done with the third round of AA pro and you still have Pro Open to go. How do you feel things are going so far? I know last year you said you put on a great performance by making the AA main when no one expected you to. How are you shaping up right now and what are your goals to finish out this day strong?
DONNELL: Well, it's always hard not to think about numbers and results, and this and that. But I'm really hoping to make the mains and secure a top-ten spot in points. I think that's looked on as a successful year and that was one of my goals at the beginning of the year. I made it out of my motos and that's just one step of the way. The tracks difficult, it's long, it's demanding, so I have to mentally step it up and let things take care of themselves.
MANIAC: A couple years ago when you turned AA you weren't as "elite" so to speak as you are now. Today you're a consistent main maker and you're also one of those guys who can blow out holeshots at will and just get down that first straightaway. I've seen you do it numerous times. What do you attribute that to? What does Jason Donnell do on his off days to get ready for the weekend?
DONNELL: Well, I took a two-year break after the 1994 Grands. I didn't even touch my BMX in '95 and '96. I came back as A Pro and felt that I had to start from scratch. If I was lucky I'd make my main in an A Pro race. It basically just took a lot of hard work and perseverance, and maturity to get to that level. I've gotten a lot of support from my family; my mom and my dad and my girlfriend, and those around me have really supported me. I think I've progressed over the last two and a half years taking small steps and I hope to continue that process.
MANIAC: What do you like to do outside of BMX? When you're not racing or training, what do you do? Do you still go to school?
DONNELL: I take a couple of courses at school. I don't necessarily like to do it but I do it. I just got my A.A. in business so I have two years left, which will probably turn into four, but at least I'll have a degree when I'm done racing BMX. The other things I like to do are water sports. I have a house on the Colorado River so I like to go there when I have days off. I like to hang out with my girlfriend. I like to watch supercross.
MANIAC: You were one of those guys who was always up for the national title. I think it was in '91 when you lost it to Zack Roebuck by 1 or 2 points. If you could go back and do anything differently, would you?
DONNELL: Um, it was a pretty controversial decision that I won't get into. But I feel I did all I had to do. I didn't get the title, but it was a successful year. I finished number 2. Sometimes things just don't go in your favor. But I was on the battle chart and had a shot at the title. It was a lot of fun and it taught me a lot.
MANIAC: What's your fondest memory of BMX so far? The moment you're most proud of?
DONNELL: I would say the Ontario national this year where I holeshotted all three mains. I got passed in the last turn and finished 3rd overall. But I holeshotted all three mains and that gave me the feeling that I was among the elite in the class.
MANIAC: Yeah I remember watching that. You were ahead of Christophe and the rest of the crew. You should have won that day but I guess nerves and the lack of experience being in the lead like that must have come into play. Next time you're in the lead, will you be more mentally prepared knowing that you deserve to be ahead of that class?
DONNELL: Yeah, I think I've matured a lot as a racer, as a AA Pro this year. We race an abundant of races each year and that's the best kind of training you can do. I feel that I am capable at any time. I'm still looking for that first win but I believe it's in the near future and that I'll handle it when I'm in the position to do it.
MANIAC: I'm sure you'll get that win soon. You keep improving. Your starts are getting a little better. Your skills are getting a little bit better. Everything's starting to flow for you. What type of rider would you classify yourself as? A power rider? A technical rider? What do you think is your greatest asset when you're on the track?
DONNELL: I think my greatest asset by far is my gate start and probably first four pedals. And that's just a result of doing gate starts when I was six years old and my dad filming my starts and just honing my skills, so that's why I think that's my best attribute. I'd like to say I'm a power rider but there are definitely guys who are more powerful at times. It's definitely something I'm trying to get better at. I'm not as naturally gifted as some of the guys out there, but I'm trying to get to their level. I read an article in Snap about Danny Nelson who said he turns his weaknesses into strengths and that meant a lot to me. I think that's what you need to do as a pro to be successful.
MANIAC: Are your parents still a big influence and supporter of you? Do they still come to your races and if so how does it make you feel?
DONNELL: Yeah, they're still really involved like I was 6 years old. They want to know how every moto went. They probably hit about 5 to 6 races a year. I remember last year at the Grands when I made it out of my semi I didn't stop pedaling till I made it to the phone so I could let them know. They're really psyched when I do well and bummed out when I don't. It's kind of like we're a team in a way.
MANIAC: Jason, I've known you for a couple of years and you seem like one of the coolest, level-headed people in BMX. You're getting all the money, all the chicks now that you're such a superstar. How do you remain level headed and what do you think about all the kids who come up to you for autographs, when they recognize you from the magazines, and just being the rock star extraordinare like you are (laughter).
DONNELL: Well, that's definitely an understatement, but I'm kind of immune to it because I was on GT when I was 6/7 years old and I just thought that every 6 or 7 year old had to sign autographs. So I didn't think it seemed all that special. But sometimes it dawns on me just how lucky I am and how cool it is to be a role model to a certain degree. I like being in that position and it's just a good feeling. If I try to represent myself well hopefully kids will see that and try to do the right things.
MANIAC: To wrap things up are there any comments you have for the younger riders?
DONNELL: Yeah… as far as racing, I see a lot of parents that are hard on their kids. They tell them when to race, tell them what to do. BMX is supposed to be fun so enjoy BMX as much as you can. It's a great sport. You're among your peers, you're among great competition, and it's just a lot of fun. Put hard work into it and you never know, you may be able to make a career out of it.
MANIAC: Awesome. Congratulations again on your new ride with Haro. Is there anyone you'd like to thank?
DONNELL: Yes. I'd like to thank first of all my parents for all their unconditional support, without them I definitely wouldn't be here. They supported me in my down times when I wasn't making money. They helped me out with paying the bills, so I'd really like to thank them in that respect. I'd like to thank my brother, my girlfriend, and all my sponsors. Scott Toth, team manager of Huffy, for an awesome year. I had a lot of fun. Chris Sanchez, Randy Stumpfhauser, Todd Lyons. I'd like to thank all my sponsors: Airwalk, Smith, AA Marketing, Epic Surf Skate and Snow in San Diego, Answer, Fox, and…and Mike Gul!
MANIAC: OK, Jason. Thanks a lot. Good luck the rest of the weekend!
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