So-called eXtreme sports are quickly moving from the fringes of the world sports scene, into higher-profile venues like the Olympics. Snowboarding made the jump to the mainstream in the Winter Olympics, and now BMX bicyclists will attempt to build that sport’s popularity at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. KJZZ’s Tony Ganzer brings us a look at one Valley Olympic hopeful.
TG: Tucked in the foothills west of Glendale, young BMX riders rush to catch their breath between training rides at the Black Mountain BMX track.
Lightning flashes in the distance, as riders closely watch professional BMX rider Bubba Harris as he zips along the dirt track’s bumps and jumps. Harris sponsors workshops like this regularly.
HARRIS: “BMX is my life…I do it professionally now, it is my job. I ride for a huge company in the BMX industry and they expect certain things out of me nowadays. So I have to get up, do my training, be prepared for every race, and unlike other sports there is a year-round season. The season goes from January to November…we have a month off. It’s totally my life, it’s all I do.”
TG: BMX, or Bicycle Motocross, can be characterized as bicycling at its most extreme. Between street tracks, or large ramps, and dirt tracks like Black Mountain, the world of BMX racing has evolved from its earliest beginnings. According to Wikipedia—dot—com BMX racing began with teenagers in the sixties trying to emulate motorcycle tricks on their bicycles…most notably the skills of Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape.”
Harris began riding when he was just 7 years old. He worked to become an 11-time amateur champion of the sport, before being sponsored by Red Line bicycles and making the leap to “pro” status. Now twenty -years-old, Harris has taken the pro national championship title two years in a row, and rode away with World championship supercross honors in France last year.
HARRIS: “I was really good as an amateur, I mean I’m really good as a pro now, but I was really good as an amateur. It’s all on-track training, on the track all the jumps.”
TG: Harris is originally from California, but he just bought a house in Goodyear with his race winnings, and has his eyes set on a new goal: the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where BMX racing will debut as a medal sport for the first time.
HARRIS: “Tell you what I work hard. And I get a program every single week that’s printed for me, and I have to follow it. And if I don’t follow it, and I go to the next race you can really tell I didn’t follow it. The people out there that think oh you don’t have to train for BMX, you just hold on and be able to jump, but they need to know you have to train just as hard for this sport as a track runner. They’ll see, once BMX hits the Olympics it’ll be huge.”
MARTIN: “My name is Kacey Martin, and I’m Bubba’s girlfriend slash pro girl BMXer. To me he’s just Bub, a big dork, but I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
TG: Martin is one of the top ten female BMX racers in the country, though she’s also one of Harris’ biggest fans, and supports his Olympic hopes.
MARTIN: “Fingers are crossed that he will get into it, because I know he would do amazing. He’s always been awesome and he has the determination for it, and he wants it. So I can’t imagine a better person to be in it.”
TG: Harris recently fractured his shoulder while riding, though he continued to train. He says the Olympics may give BMX riding well-needed publicity.
HARRIS: “BMX has been around for a long time, it’s had its ups and downs, so hopefully with big events it will be more recognized and now that it’s an Olympic sport it just pushes BMX more as a sport to other people.”
TG: From here Harris will continue his work on the world BMX circuit, maintaining most of his training in Arizona. He says he’ll keep doing what he’s doing, and hopes it will be enough to merit a ticket to Beijing.
For KJZZ, I’m Tony Ganzer