LONDON (Reuters) - Reflecting the rebellious side of a sport nurtured in the Californian counter-culture of the 1960s, BMX rider Shanaze Reade is a self-described “badass chick who kicks guys.”
The phrase disappeared along with her original website, now under reconstruction. By the time it is relaunched the British teenager may be an Olympic champion in the Games’ newest sport.
Reade, 19, is Britain’s leading exponent of bicycle motocross (BMX), developed to cater for enthusiasts who loved motocross but could not afford the equipment.
Races are short, around 350 meters, and start on a eight-meters high hill on dirt circuits including jumps and banked corners.
Reade, from a single-parent family, has ridden on the streets of the Cheshire town of Crewe since she was 10.
Her heroes include Kelly Holmes, the British runner who triumphed after years of injuries and disappointments to win the 800-1,500 double at the 2004 Athens Games.
“I just feel like I’m this local kid from Crewe still. When I see Kelly Holmes, I think, God yes she is an Olympian. I don’t think I’m like that but it would be absolutely amazing if I won the Olympic Games,” Reade told the BBC program Olympic Dreams.
“I just kind of get addicted to wanting to be the best that I can be. That may not be world champion in every sport I enter. My fulfillment may be to be British champion at something I never thought I could do.
“It’s achieving something that people don’t think you can achieve and I absolutely love doing that.”
BMX quickly caught on in the United States in the 1960s, spreading to Europe in the following decade.
A world governing body was formed in 1981, a world championship was held in the following year and in 2003 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to introduce BMX at this year’s Beijing Games.
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding, other off-shoots of conventional sports, have proved immensely popular at the winter Olympics as a radical alternative to the traditional disciplines. BMX has a similar appeal.
“When someone asks me what do I do and I say BMX racing they say ‘what do you do that for?’. It’s nothing to do with tricks, it’s just basically a race,” Reade said.
Reade retained the world senior BMX title this year. With Victorian Pendleton, she also retained the world team sprint title at the world track cycling championships in Manchester in March when they posted a world record time.
Her first world track title in Mallorca in 2007 came after just six weeks’ training.
“The first time I was in absolute shock,” Reade said. “I didn’t think I could be in shape. The second time around, we wanted to break the world record.”
In BMX the start is vital and the rider who is first to the first corner has a 90 percent chance of winning the race. To this end Reade has been working on her explosive power.
“I can almost feel like my legs getting bigger, you kind of accept it. It’s just the way you have to be, like at the top of your game,” she said.
“If that means me putting on an extra five stone (32 kgs) of muscle if it wins me a gold medal I don’t care what.”
Thirty-two men and 16 women will compete in Beijing. The men will undergo three rounds, the women will have a semi-final and a final.
Quarter and semi-finals comprise three runs, with the cumulative time determining which four riders advance. The final is a single lap with eight riders.
“My main ambition is to win the Olympic Games,” Reade said. “But to win in London (the 2012 Games) would be absolutely amazing.”
Editing by Dave Thompson