On December 11, 1971 Leigh Donovan entered the world. She was born and raised in Orange, CA and proudly still calls Orange County home. Leigh was lucky enough to have a mom who stayed home for her first 12 years and a dad who worked long hours to take care of his family. Family was at the core of everything Leigh did. Her younger sister Cari was her best friend and would always join Leigh in all of her athletic endeavors. Cari was the more flexible athlete while Leigh was the more aggressive one. Together the two of them would help one another become better through their own strengths; from gymnastics to roller skating, dance to softball, the girls would work hard together; they were a great team. Leigh learned from this camaraderie that when you work with someone who is better than you, you will grow and gain more knowledge than doing it alone. This became valuable to Leigh throughout the years and was a key factor in helping her have a successful mountain bike career.

Being an athlete was a gift that came from Leigh’s parents. Her dad was the 1966 “Athlete of the year” at Villa Park High School, the same school she would graduate from in 1990. While her mom, an avid tennis player with the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil performer, who encouraged Leigh to stretch often…which would become her biggest asset as an athlete. Beyond athletics, which was a huge foundation in the Donovan’s household, there was a lot of Love. Leigh didn’t grow up with lots of money or even opportunities to travel and see the things she would study in school but she was rich in love and that was “real wealth” (Gandhi).

As Leigh was attending college she was introduced to mountain biking and met her then boyfriend (now husband) known to most as “Stikman”. The two married in 2000 and 5 years later welcomed their daughter Grace. Now as a wife and parent Leigh values her family time even more and says that “my blessed life is a product of family and friends and I could not imagine a better one.”

Leigh wondered why her roots were so strongly tied to Orange, CA and understood it more after watching this TEDtalk, if you have a chance to watch something about family roots, check this TEDtalk about women (self settlers) in Chernobyl: Because it’s home: