BMX racer avenges heartbreak by clinching Olympic berth

By on July 10, 2012.

A familiar face will lead the U.S. women’s cycling team into London this summer as bicycle motocross heads into its second Olympic games.

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BYU grad qualifies for Olympics in BMX

Arielle Martin, 26, from Cedar Hills, is a 2007 BYU graduate set to compete in her first Olympic games in BMX. Some athletes wait four years to get their shot at gold, but Martin has waited much longer.

Martin’s childhood Olympic dream became a reality in 2005 when the International Olympic Committee announced BMX would debut at the 2008 Beijing games. Olympic consideration drastically changed the sport of BMX Martin grew up racing. Tracks started incorporating three-story start ramps and 40-foot jumps.

“By that time I was 21 and a lot of the girls my age that were at the top of the pro ranks — they felt fear,” Martin said. “That was scary to attempt doing. All these girls who thought that they were going to be on the Olympic team … just dropped off the face of the planet because they couldn’t ride that style of track.”

In 2008, Martin was in contention to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, but a crash at the World Championships left her one point short. Instead, her teammate and friend Jill Kitner went on to take bronze. Martin said she feels the selection process may have contributed to her devastating setback.

“I was winning everything internationally and I wasn’t really racing much domestically, and Jill was,” Martin said. “She shouldn’t have been that close to me in points.”

According to USA Cycling, the top-ranked athlete in both the men’s and women’s BMX Power Rankings receives an automatic Olympic bid. Since 2008, a committee has changed the points tally used to determine the ranking to include key international events instead of just U.S. races.

USA Cycling national BMX coach James Herrera has worked with Martin since February 2011 and has positive feelings toward her tough journey.

“You know, 2008 was a raw deal. Due to an unfortunate crash, we didn’t send our best girl to the games,” Herrera said. “Most athletes would have packed it up after something like that. It was a life-changing experience that I believe will allow her to overcome any adversity she experiences down the road.”

Martin again held the points lead and No. 1 ranking going into the final at the World Championships in Birmingham, Great Britain, in May. With the next closest American, Alise Post, experiencing her own unfortunate crash and placing fourth-place, Martin punched her ticket to London.

“I’m still trying to define it. You know, it’s a culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work,” Martin said. “It was a huge disappointment, coming so close and not making that team (in 2008) and feeling like I should have been there. In some ways it was like justice and kind of a relief, but in other ways it was just pure elation and excitement. When I actually crossed that line it was so many emotions. I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or if I wanted to scream or yell or laugh.”

Martin continues to train in California. The training center even includes an expensive replica of the Olympic track. London could finally cap off Marin’s inspiring story of heartbreak with a fairytale ending.

“I want a medal,” Martin said. “It’s very cool to be an Olympian. It’s very cool to be representing my country. But I know I’m capable of getting a medal there and I want to do it. That’s what I want to see. I want to see myself on that podium.”

But it’s not all about the medal for Martin. She says one reason she’s still doing this is to make a difference in the lives of young girls.

“It took a long time for girls to be accepted into the pro ranks,” Martin said. “There’s no reason a girl can’t do something a guy can do. We might be a little physically built different, that’s just the way God made us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go out and do crazy, awesome things because of our gender.”