BMX racers shift gears to prepare for the Olympics
LONDON, July 25 — To prove the Olympics aren’t just for old-time traditionalists, BMX racing returns to the games this year after its 2008 debut, and after already being a well-established “anti-establishment” sport in the annual X Games, alongside skateboarding and motocross.
What’s changed in four years with BMX? In the US at least, it’s all grown up, and stepping out from its counterculture roots to rely on sophisticated sports technology to train elite riders, according to "The New York Times" on July 19 2012.
When the sport made the Olympic stage, international riders reportedly followed the training model set by French champion Christophe Leveque, who dominated the sport in the 1990s and was known for riding six to eight hours a day — which Jamie Staff, a gold medallist for Britain who became a track cycling coach for the United States, told "The New York Times" was “misguided.”
Today however, training takes a different approach. “It’s getting really scientific, which is not really BMX,” Staff said. “I know they’re trying to keep BMX cool and hip and trendy. At the same time, they’re changing the mentality. At this point, you buy into it. Or you don’t bother.”
While the Americans took home three of the six medals awarded at the Beijing Games, other countries soon began catching up, with Australia and France investing resources into building prime athletes. France’s Magalie Pottier, for example, is the current women’s world champion and top-ranked rider.
To keep up with the competition, the American BMX program “underwent a training overhaul,” writes "The New York Times". Riders were put on strict diets (no sugar, lots of vegetables, nutritional supplements). Jerseys were designed to be tighter and more wind-resistant. Coaches implemented new sports technology tools for training and rehabilitation, including ice baths, power meters, and hiring a videographer who uses a computer program called Dartfish to analyze twists, jumps, and turns.
“In my era, we’d probably roll our eyes,” said former BMX racer and current Olympic coach Mike King. “But at this level, with the money we spend, 1 per cent of improvement based on sports technology could be one thousandth of a second, which could be the difference between a gold and silver medal.” — AFP/Relaxnews