Tucson BMXer rides into first Olympics

Cronkite News

RIO DE JANEIRO — BMX racer Corben Sharrah is riding high, entering his first Olympics here after dominating at the Olympic Trials in Chula Vista, California, in June.

“If you say Corben Sharrah to any kid out there, he would probably say he’s flawless on a bike,” said Brooke Crain, a longtime friend and teammate of Sharrah.

Perfection may come easy for Sharrah, who fell in love with BMX racing at the age of 3. His passion continued to grow through his childhood in Tucson as he raced at every track across Arizona, gaining a following from the locals.

“The community in Arizona is unreal. It’s not like any other one,” Sharrah said. “The people are crazy about cycling and definitely BMX. It’s like one big family in Arizona and I can go and stay at anybody’s house in Phoenix.”

Sharrah is in Rio to compete in the men’s individual BMX cycling event, where riders race to the finish line around tight curves and catch air along the way.

He has found success in many international events before these games, including a first place finish at the 2011 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in South Africa. Not long after that event, he broke his right femur and he missed out on the chance to secure a spot in the 2012 Olympics. Instead, he went to London as an alternate.

This time, Sharrah was determined to make it to Rio. He came back stronger than ever, placing first in the qualifiers.

“Being able to make it this far and actually to qualify and be able to compete in the games, and not kind of just be a backup guy is something that makes me very happy and definitely really satisfied with the season so far,” Sharrah said.

Sharrah’s U.S. teammates Connor Fields, Nicholas Long, Brooke Crain and Alise Post are with him every step of the way during this Olympic season. The group of five consider themselves family — training together and supporting each other’s improvements.

“Even though we are in an individual sport and are racing against each other, we have so much in common, and we travel the world together, and we are very tight knit little group,” Crain said.

Time trials for lane placement in Thursday’s individual BMX cycling quarterfinal heats begin Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Arizona time.

Video by Alex Caprariello/Cronkite News