Tomorrow BMX champion Luke Madill opens up his home to some of the most talented young riders in Australia to give them a taste of what life at the top of the sport is really like.
To prepare for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Madill built a complete replica of the BMX track that would be used in the Games. He has spent the last weeks building a scaled-down version of the track which he’ll open up to 50 young riders ranging in age from 14-16. We caught up with him as he put the finishing touches to the track…
What’s Red Bull Under My Wing?
We're trying to point them in the right direction by giving them a head’s up on what it takes to reach the level of an elite athlete. Hopefully we’ll show them what to expect, where to go and how to go about it, as well as talking to them about sponsorship and how to look after their future. For some of them, it’ll be the first time out on the kind of track they’ll be competing on when they get a bit older.
And that’s actually on your personal track?
That’s right. A couple of years ago before the Olympics I was lucky enough that Red Bull built me a replica of the BMX track I’d be facing in Beijing. Now I’ve built a smaller version next to it so the kids have got a bit of a stepping stone that they can practice on. It should help them develop so that when they do get to race on these pro-sized hills, they’re not too scared to perform.
We’ve going to put a few cameras on them and set it up with a similar feel to the Olympics, just to put on a bit more pressure to give them a sense of what it’s like.
Is this the kind of opportunity you would have liked to have when you were that age?
Oh definitely. We never got this sort of advice when we were growing up. It’s only since BMX has been recognised in the Olympics over the last four or five years that we’ve been starting to get some help and resources from the Australian Institute of Sport. If we can pass our knowledge on to some of the kids coming through, it’s going to make the change up to the elite category easier for them because they’ll know what to expect.
Are you glad that BMX has become an Olympic event, and would you have liked it to have happened earlier in your career?
Well it would have been a bit more upsetting if it had come in after I just retired but I got a shot at it and that was definitely a highlight. It’s also good that they haven’t really changed the sport for the Olympics, it's still got the same kind of relaxed feel.
Didn’t the Sydney Games take place very near your home?
Where I do my sprint training is actually around where the rowing regatta were on and that’s only five minutes from my house. The actual stadium is only about half an hour away. But I only got to see some of the mountain bike but a lot of the other events were sold out. I was kind of disappointed.
But now you have your own Olympic-sized track. How has that helped your training?
It’s great because it’s on my land and I have the run of the place. I guess sometimes it can make you a little lazy because you can use it whenever you want but it’s a massive advantage for the same reasons. And you don’t get the distresses from other people having to use it and waiting for other people to finish riding it.
How much time do you spend on it?
I spend at least four days a week out there. If I have a major event I’ll spend more time practising on it, especially on the big hill I have out there. I spend time in the gym building my strength but it’s a massive part of my training and it’s what helps me the most.
Will that level of commitment will come as a surprise to some of these kids?
I don’t think so, need encouragement. They’re at that age where they’re dreaming that one day they might be travelling the world riding their bikes but they’re probably also having a few doubts about whether they’ll ever get there. Hopefully we’ll be able to give them a positive outlook on it and let them know that it can actually happen.
Do you enjoy coaching?
It’s one of my passions coaching the kids and watching them grow and progress in the sport. Sometimes I’m learning from them. They’re the ones who are out there innovating and developing the sport with new techniques. And you’ve got to watch out for the younger ones because they’re the ones who’ll be coming through and threatening to knock us old guys off!
Does coaching give you a better grasp of what you’re doing?
Definitely, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started think a lot more. When I was younger I didn’t really think about what I was doing but now I’m coaching you analyse what you’ve got to do and it crystalizes it in your mind. When I’m riding now I’m telling myself the same sort of things I say when I coach.
So do you have a top tip for a young rider?
In the end, try to have fun with it. There are going to be days when you’re results don’t go how you want but it’s the ones that stick at it and try and push through are the ones that succeed in the end.
There are a lot of kids who get to that age when they’re just about to break through to the elite and they give up just a little too early. It’s usually because they’re pushing themselves a bit too hard and taking it too seriously. That’s the only difference between the guys out at the top of the sport is that they managed to ride out the tough times and the way to do that is to have a bit of fun with it, laugh it of and not take it too seriously.
At the end of the day you’ve got to remember that it’s a sport that you love and that’s why your there.