Female Motocross Daredevil Breaks Records -- And Barriers

PHOTO: Jolene Van Vugt, 33, is a rising star in the extreme sport of motocross.
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For Jolene Van Vugt, performing an high-flying flip on a dirt bike in front of a sold-out arena of 16,000 people is the stuff dreams are made of.

The 33-year-old Canadian is a rising star in the testosterone-fueled extreme sport of motocross. She holds multiple world records, including two Guinness World Records, and was the first woman to do a backflip on a full-sized dirt bike. Her extreme stunts have even earned her a spot on the big screen -- she appeared as Anne Hathaway's stunt double when she played Catwoman in "The Dark Knight Rises."

Now, Van Vugt stars in the show "Nitro Circus Live," which is currently on a nationwide tour. She is traveling with 40 other extreme athletes who perform stunts on motorcycles, dirt bikes and modified go-carts, to name a few. The only female performer of the "Nitro Circus Live" family, she said her fellow daredevils are like "a bunch of brothers" to her.

"When I broke into the 'Nitro Circus,' there were no girls. They had never –- not that they didn't want to include one –- they couldn't find one that could hang with them," she said. "I gave it a go and was able to complete it."

In the male-dominated world of action sports, Van Vugt is an unstoppable force in this competitive arena. But there is more than pride at stake. She risks her life to perform daredevil stunts.

"It's dangerous and it's not to be taken lightly, so I definitely want to go out there and be focused," she said.

Travis Pastrana, the show's creator, said the athletes who perform flips on scooters and do handstands on dirt bikes do it because they live for it.

"Most people think everyone is crazy here," Pastrana said. "But you have to be willing to take that risk over rewards, and it's different for everyone, and everyone's situation. The guys ... are the smartest I've ever met, book smart, they're doing this because they are passionate."

Motocross is a sport that constantly pushes the limit. Just this weekend in Texas, BMX stunt rider Matt Olson risked his life riding his bike over the brand new Fort Worth bridge.

The danger is real. On the opening night of the "Nitro Circus Live" North American tour in Ontario, Canada, 27-year-old Bruce Cook suffered lower back and spinal cord injuries after he crashed while trying to attempt the first-ever double flip on a motorcycle.

"It's tough when someone gets hurt," Pastrana said. "Everyone knows the consequences."

Van Vugt, who started riding at age 11, understands the risks too and said her list of injuries "is quite long."

"I've spent my fair share in hospitals," she said. "It's kind of a superstition, I guess. I don't like to talk about specific injuries."

For her, motocross is a lifelong passion. Being a part of the "Nitro Circus Live" family gives her a lot to live up to and she continues to push herself to prove she is just one of the boys.

"I'm kind of like a sponge," she said. "If I see something that they are doing, or something that I think it's a possibility that they might be able to teach me, then I just go over the limit and say, 'Hey that's what I want to do next.'"

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