Four members of the St. Albert BMX Club are preparing to head to Nantes, France, to compete in the 2022 BMX World Championships this July.
Ariana van Leeuwen, 11, Aaliyah van Leeuwen, 12, Hailyn Walsh, 8, and Gretchen Hook, 9, were the four girls to qualify from the club. All four riders earned the honour after placing well in August’s Canadian nationals in Calgary.
The World Championships are set to feature more than 3,000 riders from 45 different countries.
Angela van Leeuwen, vice-president of the club, said everyone is excited about the representation at Worlds.
“We are really excited,” said van Leeuwen. “We haven’t really done anything more than provincials until last year so the girls competing at this level hasn’t really crossed our minds until now.”
The van Leeuwen sisters both came in sixth place at nationals and are looking forward to competing against riders from across the world and potentially making new friends.
“I’m excited to meet people from across the world and competing with my friends,” said Ariana.
“It’ll be cool to see people from around the world and racing different people,” said Aaliyah.
The track at the St. Albert club is one of the more advanced ones in western Canada. Walsh, 8, finished fourth at nationals and said having the opportunity to practice on such a good track helps give them a step up on the competition.
“I really like [our track],” said Walsh. “Once you learn the gate at our track it makes all the other gates so easy.
“Once you ride a really smooth track and you get back to our track it feels super rough.”
Hook completes the quartet of girls heading to France. She finished eighth at nationals to earn her spot. She said the support of everyone involved with the club helped her get to where she is today.
“One of my favourite parts of being a BMX [rider] is that the people are very nice,” said Hook. “Everyone is supportive, and they almost always say ‘good race’ after a race and it’s just such a supportive community.”
The cold and snow have stopped the riders from getting out onto the track to practice right now. Instead, all four of them are partaking in some winter activities to keep fit and ready for when the time comes.
“We are doing basically any winter sport right now,” said Walsh. “Mostly at home, we will do sledding and we are also really big skiers.”
The 2022 World BMX Championships are set to run from July 27 to 31. The four girls are guaranteed to get a spot while a couple of boys, Ryder Walsh and Peyton Wood, have a chance to join them if they place well in their qualifiers.