Forget the stereotypes evoked by the piercings, tattoos, fake names and wild haircuts. This generation of BMX riders have come to the Games to compete, and show the world – beginning Wednesday at the Laoshan BMX track – that their sport deserves to be taken seriously.
“It has become professional and the level is growing higher and higher,” insists Australian Jared Graves, one of the 32 men who will battle in two seedings runs in a bid to make Wednesday’s quarter-finals.
Among the leading lights on the global scene is Britain’s Shanaze Reade, a two-time women’s world champion who has also won world gold in track cycling’s non-Olympic event of the women’s team sprint.
Reade’s serious approach to her profession – thanks to a part-time but rigourous training schedule on a hard-to-handle track bike – has made her one of the most feared riders in the world.
She expects nothing less than a gold medal, and hopes to prove it’s worth just as much as any other.
“I did track cycling to prove that BMX cyclists weren’t just people on kids bikes and to show that we are athletes. I think I have done that by setting world records on the track and winning two gold in two years,” said Reade, who is already scaring off her rivals.
“Shanaze,” said French great Ann-Caroline Chausson curtly when asked who her biggest opponent will be.
“I mean, she has won everything. But we are getting closer and closer.”