Interview: Rebecca Rusch Takes Home Emmy Award for 'Blood Road'


Blood Road was honored by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with the News and Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction. In the award-winning film, Red Bull athlete Rebecca Rusch cycles thousands of kilometers along the Ho Chi Minh Trail through the jungles of Vietnam. The goal is to reach the site where her father, a US Air Force pilot, was shot down in Laos more than 40 years earlier. We asked Rebecca what it means for her to win this award, how it compares to her World Championship and other athletic wins, and what she's got planned next.

What does it mean to you to win this award?

It always feels really good to get recognition for hard work and it is even more amazing when it’s unexpected and so out of my wheelhouse. I mean...it’s a freaking Emmy! I never set out to make a documentary film and certainly not to go for an Emmy award. I planned this expedition with Red Bull as an athlete project that I really wanted to do for two reasons: attempt an incredibly bold expedition to be the first person to ride the length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and also for personal reasons to try to connect with my Dad in the only way I knew how, by riding my bike to the place where he died. The ride was a few years ago, but really the journey has continued to unfold by being able to share the film via Red Bull Media House and help others heal and forgive. What was initially my own personal journey has become much more by connecting with other families affected by war and loss. It has become a global tool connecting me with people around the world. The award is really a huge accolade for me and for Red Bull Media House and the whole film team, but more importantly, the exposure will mean that more people will see the film and it can continue to do more good healing the scars of war internally and externally.

How does this achievement rank next to your athletic achievements?

You know, I have some amazing accolades next to my name. They are achievements that no one can take away and I worked hard for every single one of them and each one was also a group effort involving coaches, friends, family and sponsors. This Emmy award is different though because it’s a jury that selects and gives praise to your work. I’m trained as an athlete that if I work hard, results happen in a very linear equation. Creative expression and artistic storytelling like this are a whole different game. I learned that when I wrote my book Rusch to Glory. Writing and creativity results are more elusive than athletic results.I certainly was trying hard to do my best riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail and work together with the team. But when it came to telling the story on screen, most of the work was out of my hands and I had to trust creative director, Nicholas Schrunk and the film team to do their best work with the story I provided them. This award was more about letting go of control and following a dream and my heart instead of putting my head down and gutting it out. It’s definitely more rewarding than any athletic achievement award I’ve won because it encompasses so many people and a much bigger goal and mission than just me standing on a podium. I will say though, that all of my world champs and other wins are what made this expedition and film possible. Without those building blocks, I would not have had the experience, the skill, the maturity or the platform to be able to take part in such a life-changing project. I honestly feel like my whole career as a climber, paddler, adventure athlete, and cyclist was all preparing me for and leading me to this ride down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Huyen Nguyen and Rebecca Rusch on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

What is next for Rebecca Rusch?

What’s next? Well, let’s get one thing clear: I’m not retiring. I still have so much left to do and so many things that motivate and excite me. I can thank my Dad for bringing me down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and giving me clarity and understanding on what’s next. Life as a professional athlete is unpredictable, challenging and often unsustainable. Blood Road was the biggest ride of my life in so many ways. It was physically the most challenging expedition I’ve ever completed. Emotionally, nothing I’ve ever done has even come close. I’ve grown because of it. What has been the most unexpected gift was the clarity that came from that expedition on what to do next. I’ve made a career out of changing and evolving constantly and that has allowed me to be a professional athlete for decades. But like everyone else, after Blood Road, I was also asking “what’s next”? How do you follow up the most challenging and rewarding ride of your life? The trip and connecting with my Dad in the jungle in Laos reinforced two core values. 1. That I’m motivated to do good and use my reach and my bicycle as a vehicle for change. I’ve continued taking trips to Laos, fundraising with the film and a bracelet collaboration to clear up bombs in Laos. I’m in the process of launching the Be Good Foundation with my Dad’s words “Be Good” as the guiding principle. My event in Idaho (Rebecca’s Private Idaho), the Blood Road film screenings, my trips back to Laos and my bracelet collaboration are all ways that I’m giving back by using my bike and my reach.2. The second thing that the journey down the Ho Chi Minh Trail reinforced is my love of adventure and big expeditions. The ride was really the culmination of all of my skills as an athlete and I want to do more of that! My cycling is morphing and colliding with my adventure racing experience and now I am super motivated to do more bike expeditions on other iconic trails around the world, bike packing in Idaho and tackling longer, self-supported rides and endurance records. It’s almost like I’m getting back to my roots of wanting to explore and take the path less traveled… only this time with more experience and skill under my belt.So on what’s next: I’ve got a new business partner for Rusch Ventures, I’m launching a Be Good Foundation, I’m planning some amazing expeditions and endurance records to attempt, I’ve got another book in my head and so many others exciting projects that will focus on giving back and exploring.Congratulations Rebecca Rusch, and we can't wait to see what you do next!

Behind The Scenes of "Blood Road"

The crew's equipment trucks.

Photo Credit: Marc Bryan-Brown Photography / Red Bull Media House

Blood Road is currently available to stream on Red Bull TV.