Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Broken bones and broken dreams: BMX star's Olympic bid

By Tom McGowan, CNN
updated 3:16 PM EST, Fri February 10, 2012
British BMX racer Shanaze Reade is heading into London 2012 as one of the favorites to claim gold. The 23-year-old is a three-time world champion in the sport, which is entering only its second Olympic Games. British BMX racer Shanaze Reade is heading into London 2012 as one of the favorites to claim gold. The 23-year-old is a three-time world champion in the sport, which is entering only its second Olympic Games.
HIDE CAPTION
Going for gold
Star of track and dirt
Down and out
Riding high
Bumps in the road
2008 men's bmx
Daudet's date with destiny?
Marvelous Mariana
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British BMX rider Shanaze Reade is a gold medal favorite for London 2012
  • Reade crashed out of the inaugural BMX final in Beijing four years ago
  • The IOC announced BMX as an Olympic sport in 2003 and it made its debut in 2008
  • The 23-year-old Reade considered quitting BMX after her China nightmare

(CNN) -- "I've broken my shoulder, broken my knees, broken my feet, broken my hands, I've broken ribs, I've broken the coccyx in my back."

Off-road bicycle racing is a rough and tumble world, and three-time BMX world champion Shanaze Reade has suffered enough injuries to end any sporting career.

Fortunately for the British Olympian, she is made of stern stuff, mentally and physically.

"When I was leaving primary school I wanted to be a BMX racer," the 23-year-old told CNN. "My teachers and my family would say, 'How are you going to make a career out of BMX racing? It's not even an Olympic sport!' "

Gold medal formula: Mind over matter?

That changed in 2003, when the International Olympic Committee announced that BMX would be a full medal event at the 2008 Beijing Games.

A BMX master class
Human to Hero: Jessica Ennis

BMX, inspired by motocross, started life in the late 1960s as kids playing on bikes in California. It has since evolved into a sport which pits highly-trained athletes against each other over one white-knuckle lap of a dirt course.

"It's grown a massive amount," said Reade, who has also won track cycling world titles alongside 2008 Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton.

"Before the Olympic Games in 2008 it was big, but then after ... people understood our sport a lot more. Kids started coming along to the tracks, adults started coming along. People who raced back in the '80s, they started coming back into the sport."

London 2012: A swimmer's story

Having qualified for the four-rider women's final at Laoshan in 2008 after a series of grueling qualifying heats, Reade -- already a double world champion and the favorite to clinch the sport's inaugural gold medal -- had the chance to justify the career choice she had so stubbornly made as a child.

But it was not to be.

"Everything seemed to come to a complete standstill," said Reade, who crashed out of the deciding race after clipping France's eventual champion Anne-Caroline Chausson.

It was a sad conclusion to an uneasy Olympic campaign in which she also crashed during the individual time trials and the first semifinal heat.

But the final, unlike the semis, offered Reade no chance of redemption once her face had hit the dirt. She was left to contemplate giving up on her Olympic dream after just one attempt.

You can be successful, but without happiness it means nothing
Shanaze Reade

"How hurt I felt from that race, I was like, 'Do I even want to do sport anymore? Do I want to be in sport if this is the way it makes me feel?' "

But Reade's mental strength came to the fore and, over time, she regained her composure and confidence ahead of a home Games in London later this year.

"Time is a great healer. I got up, brushed myself down and I thought, 'This is what I am good at and this is what I trained for.' "

She will again enter the competition as a strong gold medal contender after clinching her third world title in Adelaide in 2010.

The prospect of being backed by thousands of partisan fans at the Olympic Park's BMX track, combined with her victory at last August's Olympic test event, has given Reade plenty of cause for optimism.

"I've never performed in front of 6,000 people before and I've never competed in front of 6,000 British people who are all behind you," she said.

"I think the atmosphere is going to be electric there and really motivating at the same time."

If Reade once again comes up short in her pursuit of gold, then at least she has learned not to let sporting shortcomings drag her down.

"My motto is life and in sport is 'happiness is the key to success.' You can be successful, but without happiness it means nothing. That's definitely what I go by."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
updated 5:44 AM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Disappointment for Nigeria's Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, who came last in the 400m hurdles final, London 2012 Olympics.
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
updated 3:38 AM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Fans of the home side, Team GB, wave Union Jack flags during the Olympic Games
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
updated 9:52 AM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
updated 11:05 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Mo Farah and Usain Bolt celebrate their success at the London 2012 Olympic Games by copying each other's
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Team GB supporters with their faces painted in Union Jack designs at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
The colors of the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, August 2012.
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Wojdan Shaherkani's Olympic debut was short, but sweet -- the Saudi judoka said competing at the Games was
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
updated 8:40 PM EDT, Thu August 9, 2012
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
updated 8:46 PM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
updated 3:30 PM EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Sat August 4, 2012
Ricardo Blas Jr
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?
ADVERTISEMENT