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Rising stars named for BMX Racing in Paris

Updated: 7 days ago

Rico Bearman and Leila Walker have been selected for New Zealand in BMX racing  for Paris
Rico Bearman in action for New Zealand has been selected along with Leila Walker for BMX racing at the Paris Olympics PHOTO: CYCLING NZ

Two rising stars of New Zealand riders have been confirmed to compete in BMX Racing at the Paris Olympic Games.

Rico Bearman from Auckland and Leila Walker from Cambridge have been named in the New Zealand Olympic team for BMX Racing competition at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines BMX Stadium on 1 and 2 August.


The riders will need to navigate their way through the quarterfinals, last chance race and semifinals to have a chance at winning a medal during the finals on 2 August, which will be staged under lights at night.

Both riders qualified for the grand finals at the recent UCI BMX Racing World Championships in USA.

Bearman, 20, from North Harbour, races professionally for the Speedco team in the USA.

He won his first world championship in Challenge racing at the age of six, and last year was crowned UCI Under-23 World Series Champion, winning six of the nine rounds. He also won a bronze medal at the 2023 U23 world championships.

He stepped up to elite racing this year, making quarterfinals and semifinals in UCI BMX Racing World Cups before a strong display in his first elite world championship, finishing second in his semifinal and sixth in the final, clocking some of the fastest lap times.

“It’s a super-proud moment for me and for my family. I am excited to be here and represent New Zealand and my friends and family back home, and show them what I can do,” said Bearman.

“We have a different schedule for the racing. It will be a bit different and a new experience but it is the same people that we get on the gate with. We will try to keep it the same so it is not a huge difference to what we are used to.

“Coming off a good world champs where I made the final, then I have some expectations on myself to keep the ball rolling and make the final. That’s a big goal to achieve but I think I can do it.”

Walker, recently turned 19, has been at the forefront of Challenge racing, winning six world titles in the process.

The Cambridge rider won the UCI BMX Racing World Cup round in Bogata on her debut in the junior elite competition. She won her first elite women’s national title this year, and took the bold step to move to elite racing, making the semifinals at the Brisbane World Cup.

Walker went even better at the 2024 world championships in South Carolina, qualifying with real fortitude in her heat, the quarterfinal and semifinal.

She finished seventh in the elite grand final, which earned a Paris Olympic Games qualification spot for New Zealand as the highest placed rider from a nation not otherwise qualified.

“It is a special feeling to be named in the team for the Paris Olympics,” said Walker.

“It will be an awesome experience and a lot more intense than a world champs or world cup. But I am excited to embrace the experience and give it all I’ve got.

“To get some time on the Paris track before it closes will be essential come race time and then I will remain European based for the summer with some nice tracks before we head in to the competition.

“I am super-excited for the racing and to have my family on the sidelines will be awesome. I can't wait to represent New Zealand and all my people.”

Both riders are currently training in France where they will remain until their competition at the end of the first week of the Olympic Games.

Michael Bias has been named as the non-travelling reserve for the men's competition.


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