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

Oct 10, 2018
by Sarah Moore  

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 ride the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1S2W6R78W2111 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Huyen Nguyen and Rebecca Rusch take a selfie along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72N2PS1W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
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"


Crew members prepare to shoot along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72QA6W1W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Crew members prepare to shoot.

The crews equipment trucks along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72M6W51W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Detail of the equipment trucks along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72PTE11W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
The crew's equipment trucks.

Huyen Nguyen Rebecca Rusch and crew members study the map along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72NRX51W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Huyen Nguyen, Rebecca Rusch, and crew members study the map.

Rebecca Rusch and crew members drink a beer along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72R7HW1W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Rebecca Rusch drinks a beer with crew members.
Nicholas Schrunk on location for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1S2W6MKUN2111 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Nicholas Schrunk on location.

Crew members prepare to shoot along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72QG251W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Behind the scenes.

Rebecca Rusch journals and rests along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72N8CD1W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Rebecca Rusch takes a moment to journal and rest.
Rebecca Rusch carries her bag along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72PEGD1W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.

Direct Nick Schrunk prepares to shoot along the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1UD72PMM91W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Creative Director Nick Schrunk prepares to shoot.

Behind the scenes for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1S2W6S4WW2111 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.
Rebecca Rusch rides the Ho Chi Minh Trail for the feature film project Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1S2W6NP1H2111 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.

The crew films Blood Road in Vietnam Laos and Cambodia in March 2015. Josh Letchworth Red Bull Content Pool AP-1TGVKKE4N1W11 Usage for editorial use only Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information.

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



Production: Red Bull Media House
Creative Director: Nicholas Schrunk
Graphics Producer: Sandra Kuhn
Art Director: John Likens
Design + Animation: John Likens, Wesley Ebelhar
VFX Supervisor: Jeremy Hunt


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


75 Comments

  • + 73
 Such an outstanding achievement, Rebecca! This film was absolutely stunning visually and emotionally. Thanks for being such an incredible driving force and for sharing this beautiful story of friendship, family, and grief. This is incredibly well deserved.
  • + 59
 Love Rebecca & Blood Road movie - have met her multiple times and she is nothing but kind. certainly fantastic for mtb-ing.

BUT the award was for Graphic Design that was created by Art Director, JOHN LIKENS.

You didn't even mention his name in this article??? Where's the artist credit that really earned the award???
  • + 13
 Our focus was on Rebecca since we're an MTB website, but you're absolutely right - I've added his name to the article!
  • + 20
 @sarahmoore: I feel that, just wanted to be sure the artist whose work won the award got credit!
  • + 34
 You should write for pinkbike. Your level of fact checking exceeds requirements.
  • + 41
 Thank you for mentioning this. Johnny Likens, art director , is truly the one who earned this award with our team. Everyone poured their hearts and souls into it, including him. For sure want to be sure he gets the recognition too. Thanks!
  • - 40
flag chrisingrassia (Oct 10, 2018 at 16:33) (Below Threshold)
 Because feminism.
  • + 11
 This typifies a big issue with journalism today. It takes one fact and spins a completely misleading narative around it for its own agenda. I don't mind pink bike re-advertising the film and promoting Rebecca a second time but let's admit it @sarahmoore you didn't "forget" to credit the art director. You spun a story about Rebecca winning an award and got found out. Why else post the photo of her holding the award by herself?
  • - 22
flag chrisingrassia (Oct 10, 2018 at 16:59) (Below Threshold)
 @karatechris: you're right. You'll get down voted though just like I did above you.
#girlpower
  • + 6
 @karatechris: that's mean questioning her journalistic integrity.
  • - 7
flag karatechris (Oct 10, 2018 at 17:48) (Below Threshold)
 Come on down voters. Don't hide. Speak up and explain yourself!
  • - 5
flag karatechris (Oct 10, 2018 at 18:13) (Below Threshold)
 @onemind123: I feel so bad.
But I'll post it again anyway...

This typifies a big issue with journalism today. It takes one fact and spins a completely misleading narative around it for its own agenda. I don't mind pink bike re-advertising the film and promoting Rebecca a second time but let's admit it @sarahmoore you didn't "forget" to credit the art director. You spun a story about Rebecca winning an award and got found out. Why else post the photo of her holding the award by herself?
  • + 1
 @karatechris: I get where you are going with this, but at the same time calling out a young journalist multiple times (because your first broadcast received negative votes) may not be the best of options.

If you truly feel your advice is worthy of helping a young journalist grow, perhaps reach out and offer it in a private message. If she becomes a world renowned journalist in the future she may be thanking you for the advice one day.
  • + 7
 @onemind123: he wasn't giving advice. He was replying to the OPs call-out about the award itself and examining the motive behind the error.
  • + 10
 I think the headline should be fixed too, I hardly think that John Likens, the winner of the award would let her take his Emmy home...
  • + 15
 @onemind123: OK, so maybe I'm getting a bit too fired up about this. I'll chill. I'm just so sick and tired of misleading press everywhere. Pinkbike is usually some light relief so when i saw a story as misdirected as this I blew up a bit. I'll go ride my bike.
  • + 7
 @karatechris: You are absolutely right. This whole story smells like fish.
  • + 4
 @karatechris: deal. Just grabbing my lights to do a nightime lap once the kids are asleep.
  • + 1
 While you are at it, a little history and geography...
Ho Chi Minh trail started in North Vietnam, but mostly ran through Laos and Camboida. (The whole point of the its use was to move troops and equipment to fighting locations to the South in a politically protected area)

Haven't watched the film, but curious; did she ride the whole trail into Cambodia or just the North Vietnam portions?
  • + 20
 That woman has an amazing pair of biceps.
  • + 1
 emilie siegenthaler + wonderwoman
  • + 17
 The film was done well but felt more like American propaganda than I would have hoped
  • + 8
 @bainer66 Yeah the tone of this film really bothered me. No question it was an impressive athletic and filmmaking achievement, but revisiting a terrible war with the Red Bull logo featuring in the majority of shots...just felt a bit off.

But then again, I watched it for free because that logo was so prolific, so...*shrug*
  • + 13
 This. I'm glad Rebecca had a personal journey and learned about Vietnam, but even the trailer is ridiculous. Saying 'Hostile Environment' then dramatic cuts to a war helmet, clearly projecting Vietnam seem like its some war torn place brimming with soldiers still hanging out waiting for Americans. Adventurous 'kids' traverse this country all the freakin time on bikes, scooters and motorbikes. It's literally one of the most well documented and safe places to buy a dirt bike or bike and explore everything from modern cities to the mtn trails
  • + 14
 @motard5: I'm keeping my anti vietnam war sentiments to myself, but I did the moto trip down the full length of vietnam earlier this year and also visited Laos. I spent 3 months between the 2 countries and felt 100% safe the entire time, never one single time I was threatened, anything stolen etc. I've visited the USA 3 times, definitely more 'hostile' in all aspects.
  • + 10
 i cannot say for the whole film as i didnt watch it all. I couldn't get past the "my dad dropped bombs on your village. Can you help me find his plane?" narrative.
Having said that, it was am epic undertaking and i hope that she got the closure she was needing
  • + 12
 I found this movie painful to watch at times. Watching grown up woman rant about team and teamwork at the beginning and then see her push her riding partner to visibly uncomfortable levels for the sake of her childhood trauma was awful. The whole movie gave me a feeling she uses people around her only to help her with her own goals. Even the Vietnam natives she meets on the journey, the very victims of USA invasion, people who suffered the consequences of the war far worse than her. Disrespectfull, ignorant, overly dramatized.
  • + 2
 @i-ride-things: I agree with you about hostility in the US. Sadly it’s brimming over with it and it lies just beneath the surface. That’s not to say that our country isn’t full of good we’ll meaning people. It certainty is. There’s also the anger stemming from so much identity politics. Heart wrenching for sure to see that you have a country like ours squandering it’s potential on so many levels. However in Rebecca’s defense she states that one of the things that moved her so emotionally in the film was the Vietnamese people and their capacity to forgive the hurts of such a devastating war. They are still dealing with tons of unexploded ordinance that causes injuries and deaths to people every year. One of the reasons for Rebecca’s bracelet foundation. She’s giving back, helping to do good. If even one life is saved, one unexploded land mine is defused as a result of her efforts. Then it’s worth it. This film has been a vehicle to perpetuate that. Good on her. She’s a great person, a great ambassador for our country and a great ambassador for the sport of MTB. Nuff said.
  • + 6
 More like propaganda for her ego, I couldn't get past the first five minutes hearing how awesome she was.
  • - 2
 Agreed, I can't believe RedBull would have actually gotten behind a project that basically glorified the murdering and assault that happened all because the Murican's needed to bomb the shit out of something. This piece was trash and it's why I generally have a massive dislike for Murican's. Her dad went over to kill innocent people all minding their own business and then had the nerve to say that he died because of the evil Vietnam people. Not even a sorry for what my father did, or anything to help. Selfish.
  • + 2
 @pushingbroom: a bit of unsolicited advice that you might consider before your next urge to say something like this. It is better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to speak and to remove all doubt.
  • + 2
 @pushingbroom: it reminds me a Meme joke about american propaganda: USA army, not only is going bomb you, they are gonna come back 20 years later and make a movie about bombing people madre them sad... But they wont say sorry for anything!!! I admire Rebeca as an athlete, and respect her work with her fondation, i just missed the antimilitary propaganda point...
  • + 14
 Kinda was personal for me too. My Dad was in Vietnam when her Dad was in. (Air Force) also.
  • - 47
flag mrgonzo (Oct 10, 2018 at 12:51) (Below Threshold)
 Way to make it about you...Uh thanks for your service?
  • - 11
flag rcrdrvr (Oct 10, 2018 at 14:40) (Below Threshold)
 @mrgonzo: my dad was in Nam too...enjoyed this very much. YOU are a sad excuse for a human...prob voted for Trump too...looser!
  • + 8
 @rcrdrvr: a little background coincidentally my dad was also in the air force in Vietnam 65-67. A good friend of mine in college came to the US as a child refugee of the war with cambodia from vietnam. I've studied vietnam war history for years. I love that shit. My brother in law and father in law were both navy corpsmen. I worked with marines on board camp Pendleton for years as a civilian and my wife still does (MARSOC.) What you have here though is a strong talented woman who had a huge accomplishment and a fil maker wins an award. And a pinkbiker who seeks recognition and attention because of what his dad did.
Also I voted for Bernie.
Gonzo out.
  • + 1
 @mrgonzo: sry bro...thought you were bashing on some hero's...even though the reason they were there is wacked
  • + 11
 Correct, the Emmy was given for Art Direction & design, and for that credit needs to be given. But being in the factual film industry myself, I know how hard it is for a niche film within a niche to excel. I was amazed when I watched this "mountain biking" movie that exceeded all my expectations, won an Emmy, and gripped me emotionally right to the end. Rebecca is fantastic in it because her character is real and authentic, and her mission is focussed throughout. For that she deserves much credit.
  • + 12
 Queen of pain brought her guns to the show. Can't wait to see film.
  • + 6
 Congrats to Rebecca, and kudos for continuing work to disarm and remove ordinance.

Thanks to PB for mentioning / photos of Huyen Nguyen, whose story I connected with as much as Rebecca's, esp as the Filipino son of a US Airman deployed to Vietnam - and my partner as the niece of a conscripted Chinese soldier forced to serve in the Viet Cong.
  • + 5
 Well deserved, great flick, surprised how much I learned regarding the Vietnam war while enjoying a classic MTB movie.
  • + 4
 Good flim if you want something different that the normal shred the gnar flick... And, if you ever meet her, Rebecca has an infectious level of enthusiasm for riding..
  • + 5
 “Be Good” as a guiding principle may be a good thing, but it´s nothing worth if you do not follow your own principles.
  • + 2
 Interesting... I watched it, and felt it was more a story about redemption and forgiveness. I told a story about the atrocities of war, and the human impact of it, from both sides. It showed the goodness of people on both sides. I guess it all about perspective.

The product placement in thee movie (not just Redbull) seemed out of place and kept it from being totally authentic, but I hate to say it...nobody was going to put produce this for free.

Rebecca seems to be a genuine and grateful person. All my indirect connections verify that. She's trying to reconcile the past and make the most of what's ahead...just like the rest of us. Any negative commentary regarding her directly is grossly misplaced.
  • + 4
 Link to the great images (on John Likens website ) for which he won his award
www.johnlikens.com/project/blood-road
  • + 5
 For a half second I thought she was in Fury Road.
  • + 1
 The documentary is definitely a enthralling watch and a wonderful story. I was so impressed with the logistics of filming and managing the process, Redbull pulled out the stops to make this happen. Then the graphic design continued to impress throughout the narrative, it really helped to communicate the story completely. The cohesiveness of the story, cinematography and graphics were very good. So I guess I'm trying to say, an award well deserved. Great work
  • + 4
 Uhmmm... Where's the "I ain't no fortunate son"??
  • + 4
 well deserved. amazing film
  • + 0
 Congratulations,this is what the world needs,not fantasy or stupid pictures maybe it will inspire humans to do what’s right ,congratulations again for ALL that who’re involved.
  • + 3
 Standing ovation for the camera and logistic crews as well.
  • + 0
 A great accomplishment for Rebecca and the whole film team! I met her about 10 years ago on-course and post-race at the Cascade Creampuff 100. A real class act.
  • + 2
 I hope she has a concealed carry license Rolleyes
  • + 9
 more like open carry; she aint doing anything to conceal those guns.
  • + 1
 I watched blood road and I will definitely watch whatever you put out next Rebecca, Congrats!
  • + 1
 Great Flick ! She's an animal !
  • + 1
 Now on my soon to watch list
  • + 1
 An amazing film and her journey is truly inspiring!
  • + 2
 She’s yoked
  • + 1
 Good for you Rebbeca
  • + 0
 ~~ please drop a napalm bomb on our village; its so sexy ~~
  • + 1
 pythons
  • + 1
 Respect
  • + 0
 GREATNESS!!!!!
  • + 0
 Well deserved! Congrats!
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