BMX star Liam Phillips will be going for gold in Rio de Janeiro this summer against a tough field, but the Team GB medal hope believes that inspiring the next generation is just as important as the Games themselves.
The rider is hoping that his performance this summer can continue to raise the profile of BMX racing, a sport which has seen a huge increase in interest since it was first introduced to the Olympics in 2008, and he believes that there’s no better way to introduce kids to cycling than through the sport – even if they go on to change disciplines in the future.
> Read the feature Liam Phillips interview
“I’ve always tried to expose BMX to a wider audience as best I can," he said. “There isn’t another cycling discipline which is as good for kids. The technical demands of the sport are perfect.
“There isn’t another cycling discipline which is as good for kids. The technical demands of the sport are perfect."
“If you’ve got kids that are five and six that can race BMX, when they get to 12 or 13 years old and want to go and do road cycling or downhill mountain biking, or whatever they want to do, the skills they’ve acquired from riding a BMX at such a young age are second to none.
“You only need to look at some of the best cycling athletes in the world from all sorts of disciplines; they’ve all started on a BMX. You look at the Athertons [Rachel, Gee and Dan], Mark Cavendish, Chris Hoy; there’s a common thread there.
“They’ve all started on a BMX and although they’ve gone on to do different disciplines, they’ve all absolutely killed their chosen sport, and that’s not coincidental – I think the skills that they’ve acquired at such a young age put you in good stead to do whatever you want."
Liam first got on a BMX track himself back in 1994 when he was just five years old, and was winning European championships in BMX by the time he was 10.
He was accepted onto the Olympic Academy Programme in 2005, where he trained with Jason Kenny and Matt Crampton, and got the nod for both the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, aged 19, and London 2012, aged 23.
Liam Phillips' Olympic record so far is one first-round knock-out and one crash out in the finals, in London, where he competed having broken his collarbone just ten weeks earlier.
Though he briefly changed disciplines to track cycling in 2011, training with the Team GB track sprint programme and even becoming a member of the men’s sprint team, he returned to BMX racing later that year, his true passion in life.
Liam Phillips will go into the Olympic Games in Rio this summer as one of the favourites for the top spot, having won a World Championship title and recorded record-breaking back-to-back overall World Cup series wins since London 2012.
A gold medal in Rio de Janeiro be the pinnacle of Liam’s outstanding career so far though, and it would no doubt inspire a whole host of young Brits to add a BMX to their Christmas list as well.