While Brayden Friesen has raced against countless other competitors, it’s likely that few of his opponents can say they were introduced to the sport of BMX by their grandmother.
Friesen loved riding his bike from a young age, but he didn’t get his start in BMX until his grandmother took him to the track at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre in Colwood. He was instantly hooked.
“I kind of just fell in love with it,” he said.
Friesen’s grandmother, Langford resident Carol Sykes, had little knowledge of what she was getting him involved in, or where the sport would lead for her grandson.
And no one could have foreseen that it would eventually take the Sooke resident to the Under-16 BMX World Championships. The Worlds were a goal that the 16 year old set for himself last year, but it was only thanks to his mother that he became aware of the qualifiers in Calgary.
“He had set this goal and I kept telling him to look into it …,” recalled Friesen’s mother, Sheryl. “Finally one day I looked it up and I (asked him), ‘Do you realize the qualifier for the Worlds is in two weeks?’”
At the qualifiers, Friesen had what he called “the best crash he’s ever had,” because it came in the finals, after he’d already secured a spot on Team Canada as one of the top eight riders. “I still can’t believe it. It’s pretty awesome,” he said.
Crashes are hardly a rarity for BMX riders and Friesen has had his share. One injury he’s still getting over came after he jumped the start and flipped over the gate, landing on his hands and awkwardly bending his fingers.
Friesen, who has what his mom calls an unlimited tolerance for pain, kept riding through the weekend before finally going to the hospital to have his injuries checked.
“They casted him right from the tips of his fingers to his elbow to make sure that he would not get on his bike the next day … He was mad,” Sheryl said. She’s able to nervously watch her son’s races, despite the obvious potential for danger, but it’s another story for his grandmother. “My mom won’t watch his races anymore. She turns her back.”
The Juan de Fuca track is helpful in getting him ready for competitions, as its length helps him build stamina and conditioning for when he competes at shorter tracks. Friesen also benefits from his home track’s “pro” section, the only one on the Island, which allows him to practice some larger jumps.
While he keeps busy in the winter doing sprints on his bike and playing hockey – the sport helps build balance and speed, he says – he can hardly wait for the Juan de Fuca track to reopen in the spring.
That’s when he’ll begin to ramp up his training for the Worlds, which take place July 25 to 30 in Rock Hill, S.C. Friesen is hoping for a top-20 finish.
“I’m pretty proud to see that he can set goals and he works extremely hard to try to obtain (them),” Sheryl said.
Eventually, his mind will be on an even bigger prize and the ultimate goal: the Olympics. “I want to take it as far as I can go,” Friesen said.
One goal down, but plenty still to come.