38-year-old mother of 3 has Olympic ambitions in BMX freestyle
Competition, potential and goal-setting are all critical, Stephanie Nychka says
A 38-year-old Calgary mother of three has her eye on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo competing in BMX freestyle — and she's been doing the sport for only a year.
"I've always had this drive to compete athletically at top levels and to always try and see what my potential is and then set a goal to reach that," Stephanie Nychka told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.
A longtime mountain biker and volleyball enthusiast, Nychka says she got the freestyle BMX bug relatively recently.
"One of my friends that I had been dirt jumping with in California suggested that I try out in the FISE world cup in Edmonton last year," she said.
"So I bought a bike off Kijiji from a 12-year-old in northeast Calgary. I hopped on it and went straight to the event and gave it a shot. I placed seventh out of eight. They thought I did better than I probably should have but it was my first taste of it. I thought, 'Wow, this is a lot of fun and I think I could really do this.'"
Nychka says she understands why some people view freestyle BMX as a rich kid's sport.
"There is only one event in Edmonton. The rest are in Hungary, France, Hiroshima, China, Bangladesh — all over the place. In order to place in these competitions, you have to show up to each one of them. So it tends to be a lot of young people who don't necessarily have jobs but still have family supporting them, that are able to get to these events."
Injuries are pretty common, she says.
"In mountain biking, I have had a fracture of one of my vertebrae, I have shattered an ankle, had multiple concussions and broken lots of fingers. But most recently I have actually broken my collarbone just practising for fun," Nychka said.
"It is dangerous and it is painful and it takes a lot of mental willpower, because it's hard when you can't ride your bike."
As for her next stop being Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics?
"It's a difficult path because the Canadian Olympic Committee has really just found out what is required of the athletes for qualifying. They are feeding us information bit by bit because there is no clean route," she said.
"We have to go to all of the world cups, we have to support ourselves and place in the top 11, probably, to be considered seriously for the Olympics."
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.