Motocross champion is an inspiration to deaf people
Students from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf get their photo taken with Ashley Fiolek, 19, a motocross athlete who was born deaf. They visited the X Games gold medalist at the Steel City Raceway in Export.
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It should be no surprise that 19-year-old Ashley Fiolek is a champion motocross racer.
When she was just 2 years old, she loved riding through the Michigan woods -- hours at a time -- with a parent on a motorcycle. She cried whenever they stopped.
At the age of 3, she got her first motorcycle, a 50-cc bike, but she didn't like the training wheels and continued riding with her parents. At age 7, the training wheels came off, and she was rolling.
She has gone on to win the women's outdoor motocross championship in her rookie year as a pro in 2008 and again in 2009, coming in second this year. She also won a gold medal in the 2009 and 2010 X Games Women's Moto-X.
Brianna Storino of Brookline watched an X Games win but didn't realize until the race was over that Ashley, just like Brianna, is deaf.
"I've been supporting her ever since," said Brianna, a senior at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.
Brianna and about 35 other students from the school Thursday met Ms. Fiolek and watched her practice at the Steel City Raceway in Delmont.
As for any students, role models help provide inspiration for the deaf students.
"Deaf role models show our kids they can be successful and they can do anything they set their minds to," assistant principal Kevin McDonough said.
Douglas Persling, a senior from Mansfield, Tioga County, said Ms. Fiolek also has another role as well: proving to people who can hear that people who are deaf are successful.
Emily Bach, an 11th-grader from DuBois, Clearfield County, put it simply: "I'd say she rocks."
Ms. Fiolek has been able to attract variety of sponsors, including Red Bull and Honda, which has made her a factory-supported athlete who gets the best equipment.
Ms. Fiolek, of St. Augustine, Fla., uses sign language, and her father, Jim, interprets.
But she needed no interpreter to communicate with the deaf students gathered around her and her 250-cc practice bike.
The students signed questions about her races, her deafness (she was diagnosed at age 3) and even her favorite color, pink. That showed in her hot-pink-and-black racing clothes, not to mention the soft pink color at the ends of her long blonde hair.
The students watched her take the bike to the track and then tackle the rugged, hilly and bumpy dirt course. The course was so muddy that adults at the track said it was the motocross drivers' version of ice. It was too muddy for Ms. Fiolek to perform her usual double jumps. The bike, and Ms. Fiolek, returned, covered in mud.
There was time left for questions and then autographs.
Biking runs in Ms. Fiolek's family. Her dad, who used to race as an amateur, and her mom, Roni, both ride motorcycles. So does her 6-year-old brother, Kicker.
Motocross is her love. And she has had the determination to stick with it, despite six other broken bones.
"It's fun. It's so different than any other sport. I'm very competitive. I like the challenge. It's just me and 40 other women just competing to try to go the fastest," she said.
Of the students who visited her, she said, "I just want them to know if you dream about something, work hard, put the right people around you, anything is possible.
"But you have to do the work. You can never give up. You just have to keep going."
First Published September 17, 2010 12:00 am