New Zealand has enjoyed its most successful UCI BMX World Championships at Auckland’s Vector Arena.
Kiwi riders claimed 12 world titles, another 26 podium places and 46 more made finals in virtually every class from six and under boys to the 45 years and over Cruisers.
The majority of the success came in the Challenge age group classes, but there were positive signs at the elite level too, with Marc Willers finishing second in elite men – his best World Championship result – and Hannah Sarten claiming a bronze medal in junior women. Cody Hobbs was the best of the junior men going as far as the semifinals.
“I’m very satisfied with the results,” said Ryan Hollows, The BikeNZ BMX National Coach. “It’s beyond our expectations.”
Apart from Willers, Daniel Franks and first year elite rider Trent Jones made it to the semifinals.
“It’s been a breakthrough week for the guys,” said Hollows, who noted that Kurt Pickard had showed good speed, but got out foxed in his quarterfinal.
Willers turned his season around with the runner-up placing. “Four weeks ago I motoed (didn’t qualify) at a big meeting in the States. I didn’t know how I was going to go here.”
Hollows said the California-based rider had got stuck into a solid block of training. “He worked really hard and got the result.”
Four riders stood on the podium twice during the championships. Hamilton’s Calien Calkin won the 12 year boy’s class and 24 hours later was runner up in the 12 and Under Cruiser.
Rangiora’s Tahlia Hansen put the disappointment of finishing runner-up in the 16 Girls behind her to win the 16 and Under Cruiser.
Auckland’s Adam Coker won the 25-29 years men’s 20 inch class and then had to settle for second in the same age group Cruiser class and Maynard Peel from the Puni-based Sunset Coast club was third in both the 14 boys and the 13-14 years Cruiser.
Mike Batterton, the chairman of BMX New Zealand, believes the results are vindication of the progressive coaching and development programmes across the sport.
“We’ve had success at all levels which shows the depth the sport now has,” said Mr Batterton. “I know the host country advantage helps, but riders don’t come from Europe, North and South America to make up the numbers. They have sent their best riders and ours are very competitive with them.”
BMX in New Zealand starts with a “Sprocket Rocket” programme for riders under eight years which concentrates on skills and technique development. That is followed by the annual, more competitive “Mighty 11s” test series against Australian 11 year olds.
A Junior Development programme is run for 13 to 16 year olds for any rider who makes a final at the National or North Island Championships.
This leads into the High Performance programme run by Bike NZ for the sport’s elite riders like Olympic silver medallist Sarah Walker.
An Intermediate Development Programme is about to start for riders who haven’t made the High Performance squad, to encourage them to stay in BMX.