When the 400 to 500 riders show up for the Firestorm Nationals this weekend, Aug. 5 to 7 at the Kelowna BMX track, they will be racing on a safer and possibly faster track. The Kelowna BMX club has installed asphalt corners on the track, and upgrades the club has wanted to make for four years says this year’s Kelowna BMX president, Richard Loney.
“The asphalt adds to the safety of the track, the corners don’t erode with weather conditions, it takes far less maintenance to keep the track safe.”
The Firestorm Nationals are part of a series of major races with the American Bicycle Association. Over 1,200 spectators are expected at the BMX track behind the Rutland Arena this weekend. Admission to watch is free. Interest in the sport is growing rapidly and Loney says the reason is simple: “We are now an Olympic sport.”
Plus the races are exciting; racers jump and go over the bumps and obstacles of the course itself at startling fast speeds. About half of the competitors expected at the event are between the ages of 8 to 18 years old. Riders however can be as young as three and well into their sixties.
One of the children competing this weekend is the number one Canadian Amateur Girl for all age groups in Canada and West Kelowna resident, Natalie Schmidt, 11. Schmidt has been riding since kindergarten and got into the sports after watching her Dad and brother compete.
“I have to train pretty hard, my brother Spencer and my Dad help me at the track.” At 11 she is spending her summer focused on her sport, the exercise equipment at home is getting steady training use and she is travelling with her family across North America in the coming months.
While Schmidt is excited to travel to places as far away as Tulsa, OK, nothing beats racing.
“I would rather be at the track than anywhere else. When I race I am always focused, I’m just concentrating. I think about staying loose, I want to stay strong so no one can catch me.”
The feeling inside after a win keeps Schmidt motivated in the short term, but the Olympics are her big dream. “I want to go to the Olympics, I have to be 18 so they are nine years away.”
The Firestorm Nationals will be hosting pro athletes, Olympic hopefuls, and nationally ranked racers of all ages. To catch some of the excitement for free this weekend go to the BMX track behind the Rutland
Arena. Pre-racing starts Friday afternoon, with competition heating up at 11 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.