Team GB BMX star Liam Phillips has been riding his bike since way back in 1994, when he was just five years old. Now the 2013 World Champion and regular record-breaker is preparing to add a third Games to his Olympic record this summer in Rio de Janeiro, to try and finally add a coveted gold medal to his already stellar collection of prizes.
Liam missed out on a gold on home turf in London – unfortunately unclipping from his pedal and crashing out in the Olympic BMX medal race having recovered from surgery on his collarbone just ten weeks before the start of the Games.
> Read the feature Liam Phillips interview
He bounced back with that World Championships win one year later though, and went on to become the first man to ever win back to back overall Supercross World Cup titles in 2014 and 2015, an achievement which wrote his name into the history books.
But how did Liam get involved in BMX racing to start with? We caught up with Phillips for a feature interview on his Olympic preparation recently, and thought we’d find out exactly how he got started and why he loves racing BMX while we were there.
“What I love about BMX is the fact that everything rests on my shoulders"
“Basically, like all kids I was much more into being outside and riding my bike and doing things outdoors than playing PlayStation or computer games," he told us.
“We had a BMX track close to where I grew up in Somerset and I was introduced by a friend at five years old. They used to run club nights every Tuesday and Thursday night and I went down for the first time and was hooked. I went every single week.
“That progressed onto racing regional level races and then from regional to national to international. Obviously BMX is very family orientated at the amateur level and I went into all these races when I was young with the support of my parents and yeah ended up racing all over the world!"
Phillips’ dad Pete became heavily involved in the BMX community as a result of Liam’s involvement, too.
Pete runs a construction company who played a part in renovating the BMX track that Liam grew up on in Somerset. He soon became involved in the running of the BMX club to the point where he developed enough skill go on and take the role of national coach.
Liam’s mum Sharon meanwhile gave up a passion for equestrianism to help forward Liam and his sister’s love for BMX. It’s not as if it wasn’t obvious that the now-27-year-old had a talent early doors though – he was winning European Championships by the time he was 10.
As Liam started taking on other sports alongside BMX, his passion for the bike only grew and outshined his interest in other activities. He pinpoints the self-reliance involved in BMX racing as one of the overwhelming factors behind his passion.
He continued: “As I got a bit older I started to play football but one of the things that I absolutely hated about playing football was that I’d give 110 percent every game and I’d always feel like there were there were other members of the team who could have done more.
“What I love about BMX is the fact that everything rests on my shoulders. I can’t blame anyone else if I go out there and underperform; it all rests on me.
“Win, lose or draw there isn’t anyone else to blame..."
“That’s something that looking back at now, having played football and felt that frustration, I think that that’s one of the things that I really enjoyed from the very beginning about BMX. It all rests on me and win, lose or draw there isn’t anyone else to blame."
Our fingers are crossed that Liam won’t need to blame himself or anyone else come the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this summer.
And likewise, if he does go on to fulfil his potential and take the gold medal home, he’ll only have himself – and possibly a couple of parents – to thank for his success.