You Should Know … Jonah Freedman

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Jonah Freedman, 17, is a former Maryland state champion in mountain biking who has competed in races all over the world.

(Courtesy of Jonah Freedman)

Freedman was raised on a farm in Adamstown, where he was home-schooled by his parents. Biking on Sugarloaf Mountain with his dad led him to pursue a career in mountain biking. He’s been competing in races since he was 12 years old.

Most recently, he participated in the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, which included races in Europe as well as Snowshoe, West Virginia. These were some of his last races as part of the junior category in mountain biking — when he turns 18, he will be competing as an adult.

He and his family belong to Congregation Kol Ami of Frederick.

You were home-schooled as a child. What was that like for you?

So when I was younger, I had more traditional home-schooling as I had grown up on a farm my whole life. There was a lot of nature-based learning and just learning a lot about the land. And then, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved to a dual enrollment program, which means I’m doing all my classes at Frederick Community College. And I’m just doing college classes now.

Did your Jewish identity have an impact on your upbringing or education?

Yeah, yeah, definitely. When I was younger, I always went to Sunday school and was bar mitzvahed. And it was definitely a part of when I was younger. We’ve just not had as much during COVID since all of that it’s been harder for us. But yeah, when I was younger, definitely.

How did you get into mountain biking, and what do you enjoy about it?

Since I live on a farm and I always loved riding my bike and we live next to Sugarloaf Mountain, which is like just a mountain near us and I would always love riding my bike up there. And my dad was like, ‘You seem like you love this,’ and he took me to a BMX track, which is a different discipline of cycling. And I just fell in love.

And as I’ve grown older, I transitioned into mountain biking. And with cycling in general, there’s lots of different disciplines like how with running track versus running cross country. But I just got into it, and I fell in love. I’m just so absorbed in the sport, it’s all that I want to do. It’s my favorite thing. I spend most of my waking time either doing it or going to the gym to get better at it or thinking about it … like, I just love it.

When did you actively start competing in mountain bike races?

So I started in 2017, which was my first year of racing, and then in 2018 I won the state championship. So I was the state champion in 2018 for Maryland. Then I got into downhill riding, which was a different discipline in mountain biking in 2018 [or] 2019, which is what I do now. It involves shorter, more technical tracks with bigger rocks and steeper drops. That’s what I went to Europe to compete in the World Cup in.

Do you have any Jewish role models in your sport?

I don’t know if I have any Jewish ones. There’s not a lot of Jews in the sport, or at least that I’ve found. But I have lots of role models, Like my coach [Hillary Marques]. I’ve been working with a coach for a few years, and she’s a huge role model for me.

What’s next for you?

This year, I’m aging out of the junior category, which is under 18, and I will be moving to racing the professional category, which is a big step for me and I’m really looking forward to it next year. I would love to race in more World Cups if I can get on to Team USA again as an adult, but I would also like to try to race in the Enduro World Series, which is like the Mountain Bike World Cup for a different discipline of mountain biking. As well as racing in Australia, maybe.

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