MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you knew Heidi Henriksen when she was younger, this is about the last thing you’d have imagined her doing.
“I was always really shy and quiet and kind of stayed to myself,” Henriksen said, “and involved in music and the arts.”
But 10 years ago, the shy and quiet artist did something that would change her life. She sat down and watched a movie. This whole thing started with Million Dollar Baby.
“So many people have that urge to try it when they see it,” Henriksen said. “And it’s kind of this like grungy glory. I mean, it’s kind of cool. So that got me interested in it. And I think that kind of lit a little fire in me before I even really knew about it.”
Four years later, Henriksen got the urge to finally put a little fuel on that little fire, taking an introductory boxing exercise class in Minneapolis.
“On a whim kind of, at the suggestion of a friend,” she said. “And I absolutely loved it. So I started coming in and made it a regular routine.”
From there, it was almost like following a script.
“Within a few months the owner had approached me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to try sparring?’ And I was like, ‘OK, why not.’ I just kept saying yes to things. She’s like, ‘Do you want to compete?’ And I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll try it.'”
It took a year and a half to get her first fight. But it was worth it.
“Having my hand raised at the end of that first fight was like the best feeling ever,” Henriksen said. “And from there I knew I was hooked.”
She fought her way up, landing a spot at the national tournament in January, where she turned her silver screen inspiration into a silver medal — second place in the country in her weight class.
That led to an email that popped up in her inbox in May, an invitation to join Team USA.
“And I had to like reread it six times,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is this a prank? Is she kidding me? Is she joking?’ I was like, ‘No, this is for real.'”
Henriksen is the first woman from Minnesota to make the U.S. women’s national team.
Now she’s living her dream full-time, training and competing and getting ready for the World Championships in November. Then, she hopes, the Olympic qualifiers in February and, just maybe, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which she calls “the ultimate goal.”
It just goes to show how far you can go when you chase your dreams — with the right attitude, a killer work ethic, and a DVD player.
“It’s been kind of surreal since then,” Henriksen said. “It’s really been a dream.”