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Young BMX racers have their sights set on Olympics

St. Louis area riders are appreciating the new recognition the sport is getting in the Tokyo Olympics

ST CHARLES, Mo. — BMX riders know just how brutal racing can be. Local, up-and-coming riders, said the dirt feels like concrete when they fall on it. Yet, from St. Charles to St. Peters to Brighton, you can find BMX enthusiasts going all out on the track because they love it.

Possible future Olympians are training to get better and making friends along the way, but when the gate drops, all the friendships are gone.

“It gets pretty competitive,” Andrew Wuenschel said.

“I’d say it’s over, it’s pretty fair game out on the track,” Alyssa Bryant said.

This kind of exercise isn’t like your typical bike ride in the park.

“It’s a very vigorous sport, it’s a full sprint,” Alfonso Giganti said. “Imagine going from zero to 100% of your body’s ability for a sustained 38-40 seconds. It uses every muscle group in your body. It’s very challenging. Just like in any sport, it’s showing up and putting in the work.”

Also just like any sport, it’s not only about physical talent but also mental strength.

“You have to have the right mindset,” Alyssa Bryant said. “I was told yesterday that a little kid looked up to me because of how strong I was.”

And the athletes have to be prepared for a collision at any time.

“It’s not if you’re going to crash, it’s when,” Giganti said. “The dirt surface, even though it’s dirt, it feels like concrete.”

“Once that adrenaline runs thin, then you can start feeling it,” Mike Santamaria said.

With BMX racing not being a traditional sport, having it in Tokyo is bringing it new attention.

“The Olympics are bringing recognition to the sport.” Giganti said. “It’s definitely legitimized it as a real sport and not just some niche action sport.”

Credit: AP
Bethany Shriever of Britain, center, Felicia Stancil of the United States, 2nd right, and Drew Mechielsen of Canada, right, are followed by Mariana Pajon of Colombia, 2nd left, and Merel Smulders of the Netherlands, left, in the women's BMX Racing finals at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

“It’s helping people have more ambition now to try to get into the Olympics,” Patrick Bryant said.

The Kinetic Park in St. Charles is hosting a BMX event on Saturday. Who knows, there may even be a future Olympian at the starting line.

“We definitely have kids out here working their tail off,” Giganti said. “They want to, maybe one day, be pulling that medal over their neck. Absolutely I see it.”