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BMX in Beijing

Aired July 2, 2003 - 11:44   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: For 2008, there is some other Olympic news to let you know. Bicycle motorcross, BMX, will be an official Olympic sport for the first time in the Summer Games. That's for 2008 in Beijing. It follows the arrival of snowboarding in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, and it's all part of a strategy to bring a younger audience into the Olympics.
We have with us now professor BMXer John Purse. He is known on the racing circuit as "The Jackal." He is one of the top riders in the sport. Last weekend, by the way, he won the National Bicycle League South Park in Pennsylvania.

He is here to talk to us about BMX becoming an Olympic sport.

Good morning. Congratulations by last weekend's win, by the way.

JOHN PURSE, BMX PRO BIKER: Good morning. Thank you.

KAGAN: What do you think about BMX going Olympic?

PURSE: BMX in the Olympics is like a dream come true, because I started racing in 1981, at 8 years old, and there was always talk of BMX being in the Olympics. And for it to actually come true is extraordinary.

KAGAN: So you will keep in the sport and try to become an Olympian for 2008?

PURSE: Absolutely. You know, I turned pro in 1990, and it has just been one of those things as you evolve you never think that you will ever be a professional at BMX racing. Sometimes you can kind of go off in either direction, because BMX is split up into five different categories. But to be able to still be involved and it being in the Olympics is an honor, and I'm going to do my best to participate in the 2008 Olympics.

KAGAN: The basic idea of the Olympics is that it features amateur athletes, but of course we have seen that line blurred in so many sports -- the NBA, figure skating, other sports. So I guess with your sport, it won't be a problem that you've already turned professional to try to become an Olympian?

PURSE: Hopefully not. I think they have the political correctness involved with the -- as far as us being able to compete in the Olympic Games, and we are actually classified as 19 and over elite men. And we -- it's from the UCI, an affiliate from the NBL, National Bicycle League, so all of that is taken care of. KAGAN: This is the description of how BMX will work in the Olympics, and you tell me how I'm doing here. All right, it says four riders on small stunt bikes start together, they negotiate a dirt track obstacle course filled with jumps, bumps and turns. The fastest rider on each heat advances in an elimination process, and the heats are expected to take less than a minute each. How is that for a description?

PURSE: That's pretty close. It's pretty much a dead-on description of BMX racing right now in the United States and nation- wide. We have the American Bicycle Association, and National Bicycle League that hold events held in the United States, but it's UCI affiliates in Europe and worldwide. But what we do, the difference is we have eight riders on the track at one time. The X Games are eight riders on the track. So we are limiting them down to four riders at this event, but it is going to make for some really incredible racing, because when you have four, it's even more jam packed, and it's going to be pretty exciting, especially for the audience that will be witnessing it.

KAGAN: Yes, and they're trying to bring in a younger audience. I know my 5-year-old nephew is a huge fan, loves to watch.

Any concern, though -- I know when snowboarding went to the Olympics, a lot of the hardcore, long-term guys were thinking, you are taking an outsider's sport and making it too mainstream.

PURSE: I don't think so. You have the antis that are involved in every sport out there. But BMX racing, like I said, is split up into five different categories, and you have different personalities that go with those categories, but BMX racers in general, this is an honor to even be involved in the Olympics, and I don't think there will be a problem with people saying we went against anything that was, you know, from the roots of BMX.

KAGAN: And real quickly, men and women compete?

PURSE: Absolutely. They will have a 19 and over elite men and 19 and over elite women category. And the qualification is not -- they haven't set the ground rules as far as how they are going to qualify them, but there will be a lot of people participating, you know, for adult medals. So hopefully they get that straightened out, and they are going to -- it will be great for world racing, because not only do we race the United States, but it's all over, you know, in Europe, you know, Australia, South America, everywhere. So it will be kind of a worldwide event for us and really, you know, bring us altogether, not only just for the world championships, like they have, the ECI World Championships, but for the X Games, and this is kind of...

KAGAN: Icing on the cake.

PURSE: Yes. Icing on the cake. The Olympics is going to be just incredible for BMX racing.

KAGAN: We wish you well with that. Good luck making the team in 2008. John Purse, thanks for explaining a little BMX and the Olympics. Appreciate that.

PURSE: Thank you.


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