In Our Own Words

"What is Jingle Cross and why does it mean so much to me?"

By: Katerina Nash  December 03, 2019

5-time Olympian Katerina Nash discusses why and how she chose to be a clean athlete and the importance of inspiring the next generation of USA Cycling riders to train and compete clean.

What is Jingle Cross and why does it mean so much to me?

Jingle Cross is an annual three-day bike event in Iowa City. Just like many other events it started with a few enthusiastic cyclists wanting to do more and perhaps to beat their friends in a more official way than just a group ride. The event has grown over the years and nowadays it includes a stop on the UCI Cyclocross World Cup.

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I have been coming to Jingle Cross since long before it turned into one of the biggest cyclocross events in the race series. It’s always been 3 days of racing, the course is rad, the theme is fun and it has a larger than life meaning. This event is a fundraiser for the Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the race director John Meehan got his start as a pediatric surgeon at Iowa University. John is now a robotic surgeon and teaches robotic surgery all around the world and even though he lives and works in Seattle, Iowa City is close to his heart and Jingle Cross is a way to give back.

I have been fortunate to make it on many Jingle Cross podiums and for each one of them I have been greeted, hugged, and congratulated by a kid or two. Jingle Cross has always had podium kids. These tiny little kids sometimes come back the next year and it’s great to see them grow up. It’s especially great to see them back knowing that all these children are patients of Iowa Children’s Hospital and survivors of difficult health problems. It is on this particular podium that being a clean athlete is so powerful and so important to me! These kids are the biggest fighters. I can pick their parents in the crowd enjoying the moment when their kids are being part of the big show and it’s away from the hospital.

I was a little kid at one point and I was fortunate enough to grow up in a good environment where morals and fundamentals of being a good person were introduced to me. Coming from both my parents and my first coaches. It sure sounds like a lot of DO NOT when you are a child but as I matured I found those things to be the most rewarding actions in life. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, treat others with respect.

While living by those rules, it wasn’t hard to make the right choices when I was an older athlete. It never crossed my mind to cheat my way to the top of the podium. I made a decision that I will only get as far as my talent, work, and years of training would take me and that’s that. With that in mind, I have enjoyed many successful moments and never gave up working harder and smarter. Even today I absolutely love standing on the podium knowing that every accomplishment is my own work and I have nothing to worry about. As much as I like winning bike races, the clean conscious is what makes me feel like a winner. It is great to cross the finish line in first place, to inspire younger generations, to entertain cycling fans around the world, to reward sponsors, to give hope to parents of sick children and to hug kids on the podium. What is even greater is not to disappoint anyone with a failed drug test and to spend my career as a clean athlete!


About the Contributor

Originally from the Czech Republic, Katerina moved to the U.S. in 2000 on a college scholarship for cross-country ski racing. A five-time Olympian(!) – first competing in the mountain bike race at the Atlanta Games in 1996 at age 17, and most recently in Rio at age 38 – Katerina has proven to be among the world’s most versatile and enduring athletes, showing the world that women can remain competitive at the highest levels into their forties.


Photo Credits:

Top Photo: CXHairs Media, LLC.
Inset Photo: JingleCross.com