Folks who have known me for at least a few years know that I raced motorcycles for 7 seasons in the AFM. I started too late in life (age 38) to have hope of ever doing very well at it, but I did finish 9th in my “class” a couple of times and learned an awful lot about motorcycles, racing, and “the nut between the handlebars” that keeps you from going as fast as you think you should be able to. Anyone who’s ever tried racing, not simply spectated, knows how incredibly hard it is, and respects and admires those who figure out how to go really fast and pass everyone.
It may seem odd for a middle-aged woman to be somewhat in awe of a 17-year-old woman, but Elena Myers is no ordinary 17-year-old. She is one of those people who can go really fast and pass everyone. She was the first woman ever to win an AMA Pro Supersport race, in 2010 at age 16. At the rate she’s improving, she may be racing in the World Superbike or MotoGP series in just a few more years, and she would be the first woman ever to do so. In a word: amazing.
So what would you expect a young woman like this to be like, off the track? On the handful of occasions that I’ve met her, at a track day, a race event or a motorcycle show, she has always been professional, soft-spoken, articulate and gracious, with composure and confidence well beyond her years. (What were you like at 17?) She’s very petite, and California beautiful.
I decided I’d like to do a portrait of her, and give it to her and her family as a token of admiration. Not a racing shot–those are available by the hundreds, all copyrighted and not very interesting from a human perspective. I wanted to show her personality, to show her just being Elena. I asked race photographer and friend Gary Rather if he could snap a few photos of her in the paddock for me at the next AMA event. He was happy to help, and came back with exactly the kind of shot I’d described.
Last week I drew her portrait. When I was finished I posted it to Facebook, and right away my racing friends started commenting. They knew who it was! For most, this was the first time they could see the quality of likeness I can achieve; after all, my other portraits have been of people they don’t know, so they couldn’t tell whether one looked right or not.
Amid the flurry of comments, I learned that one of my friends knows the Myers family. He put me in direct contact with Elena, and earlier this week I met her with her mother and sister and presented her with the portrait. We had a nice visit over lunch, and as we parted they were off to a frame shop to have it framed. Elena not only thanked me several times for the portrait, she linked to it on my website from her own Facebook fan page. Of course I was thrilled to get the extra visits to my website!
I’m hoping that Elena and her family enjoy the portrait for decades, long after she’s stopped racing in the distant future. I’m glad I was able to use my talent to give something to one of my heroes, to make a personal connection, to make a difference in her life.