âAfter me, who will it be? After participating in the London Olympic Games, I asked the Venezuelan Cycling Federation that question. I wanted to prepare the future of BMX in our country, give inspiration to the young athletes so that one day they can do as well or better than me.â
Stefany Hernandez, 22, is the captain of Venezuelaâs national BMX team. He plea to the sporting institutions produced results: a group of four athletes, including her, are on a specialised training camp at the World Cycling Centre.
In Aigle, two Junior men, Jholman Sivira and Jefferson Milano, discover what it is like to live the life of aspiring champions: âAt the WCC, I am learning to live like a top level athlete,â says Jholman, Sub-American Champion in 2012. âBefore coming here I had never worked so methodically in a gym and I had never integrated road cycling into my preparation.â
He appreciates riding on the Supercross track with the eight-metre ramp. Where he comes from, in Puerto Cabello, in the State of Carabobo, the nearest facilities are an hourâs bus ride away. He travels there three times a week, his bike under his arm, with a chunk of bread to keep him going.
Third in the Pan American Games last year, Jefferson recounts: âThe highest ramp in Caracas is three or four metres, so I was shocked when I found myself at the top of the WCC ramp for the first time. But I suddenly discovered everything that I love in this discipline: adrenalin and jumps. The World Cycling Centre is the perfect place to progress.â
Final objective at the UCI Worlds
At the end of July, Jholman Sivira and Jefferson Milano will aim for top-five places at the UCI BMX World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand. Although ambitious, this goal is within their reach. They both finished in the middle of the Elite table in Papendal, in the middle of June, at the Dutch round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup. And their ease in training has impressed at the WCC.
Stefany Hernandez is proud of her two countrymen, and she has the same hopes for the young Yerlin Castillo, who will join the World Cycling Centre at the end of summer. âI have opened up a pathway for these young riders,â she said. âThey have enormous talent and I hope that they can become World Champions. If they do, the whole of Venezuela will wear the World Championâs jersey!â
The figurehead of the Venezuelan team was undecided about pursuing her career after the Games. With repeated injuries, the cost of travelling to international competitions and training at the WCC without, at the time, knowing if these sums would be reimbursed, she just missed out on the final in London because of a fall. Eight riders went through: the accident saw her slip to ninth place. Stefany took up her studies again and gave up sport before asking herself: âWhat am I doing with my life?â She returned to the WCC in March to prepare new challenges (the UCI Worlds, Bolivarian Games, Olympic Games) and take up her new role of âbig sister.â
At the World Cycling Centre, the Venezuelans can also count on JosÃ© Manrique, the national BMX coach. The 33-year-old, who started cycling at the age of four, is part of the expedition to Aigle. As well as accompanying his Federationâs athletes, he makes the most of the knowledge shared by Thomas Allier, triple World Champion in the discipline and now coach at the Centre. âI will share everything I learn from him with people in our country so that BMX can continue to progress,â says JosÃ©.
Allier observes: âThe Venezuelan trainees are very motivated, be it the athletes or their coach. They work well together and have already made considerable progress in a short time. You can tell that there is past experience and shared aspirations in this solid group. But they remain very open to mix with other members of the BMX group.â
The two Juniors have found a path they would like to follow: that of the Colombian Carlos Ramirez, one year older than them, who became Juniors World Champion in May 2012. They enjoy tackling this huge Latin American talent in training, and are gradually getting closer to his reference times.