Being a professional athlete requires an individual to have certain intangible elements, often referred to as the “It” factor in sports. These traits are not acquired, rather they are inherent to the personality of the athlete, which is then reflected in their sport of choice. Grit, determination, absence of fear, and a never say die attitude are some of the most important traits for competitive athletes. These traits are something that cannot be developed over time, as they say, “he was born for this”. Just like a handful of people can play professional basketball because “you can’t teach height”, the same thing is applicable for professional motorcycle racing, as many intangible traits are necessary to be successful in this extreme sport.
Emil Botvinnik is a professional motorcycle racer that has competed at some of the most renowned races in the U.S., as well as the world. Emil started at a young age, like most successful athletes, he was already riding motorcycles and participating in races when he was just 15 years old. However, other racers weren’t his only competition, as illegal street racing is an alarming issue that police must contain and eradicate. Emil found his “It” factor when he was riding around the 5 boroughs in Brooklyn, racing fellow riders in hopes of finishing first, while also evading numerous police officers on his way to the finish line.
When most people would falter under the pressures of bodily injury, arrest, or even the bitter taste of defeat, Emil thrived. As he got older, he realized that he could make a profession out of his unique skillset and immeasurable attributes.
“Many people often feel anxiety or butterflies in their stomach before a big race, although most people say this is natural and a sign that you are ready for the challenge, I always felt a sense of excitement, the word fear is not in my vocabulary”.
Emil decided to take his talents to the professional racing circuit, competing in big races, both nationally and internationally. One of Emil’s favorite races was the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. This is considered to be one of the most dangerous races in the U.S. The 12.42 mile course that heads straight up to the peak of a 14,110-foot tall mountain is mostly unpaved, and the race is known more as an off-road rally competition as a result. The race has 156 turns, most of which are very treacherous to maneuver, as the course is lined with enormous trees, and corners that completely lack side rails. One wrong turn will result in either an abrupt halt from over 100 MPH speeds by a tree, or a quick fall down the mountain by going over its side. Over the years, 5 racers have lost their lives as they sought to etch their name in the history books. While most would tremble at the thought of such perils, Emil was licking his chops. In 2009, Emil had a 4th place finish in this race, he had a chance to finish as the runner-up to the eventual champion, Jeremy Toye, however, he was too aggressive during the tail end of the race, having to stop and regroup to avoid a catastrophic injury.
“This was one of my favorite races in the U.S., it gave me the confidence I needed to assure myself that I could hang with the top guys. It was a major turning point for my professional career given the fact that I had the eventual champion right where I wanted him, I made a critical mistake towards the end of the race that served as a building block for future races. I believe it is important to learn from your mistakes and turn them into a positive, rather than sulking about what could have been”.
Like any professional athlete, this only added fuel to Emil’s fire to improve his skills and do better in future races. He took the good and the bad from this race, eagerly looking to hone his skills to do better at his upcoming races. Mental fortitude is imperative to stay strong while experiencing defeat, it is even more critical for extreme sports that have the potential to either cause irreparable bodily harm, or even death. Emil also had top 5 finishes in The SCORE Baja 100, the Sonoma Raceway, the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as well as a third-place finish at the New Jersey Motorsports Park.