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BMX riders bound for Olympics -

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BMX riders bound for Olympics

Reporter: Ben Knight

KERRY O'BRIEN: When Lance Armstrong and Robbie McEwen began their cycling careers riding BMX bikes,
they, too, were probably banned from their local shopping centre. Back then, riders who wanted to
compete at the top had to change to traditional racing bikes. But for the current crop of BMX
bandits, that's all about to change. BMX is now a fully fledged Olympic sport, and with Australia
ranked as one of the top five BMX nations in the world, serious effort is going into making sure
our riders are ready. But it's not the only sport outside the mainstream that's being targeted to
develop our future champions, as Ben Knight reports.

BEN KNIGHT: Every day, after school, you will find kids like these at skate parks and BMX tracks
across Australia. It might look like little more than mucking around on bikes. But BMX is growing
up. And from Beijing on, these riders will have the chance to become Olympians.

ASH MCCUTCHEON, BMX WORLD CHAMPION: I'm aiming for the Olympics in 2012. Yeah, that's what I'm
aiming for now.

BEN KNIGHT: At 16, Ash McCutcheon will be too young to compete at Beijing. But his sights are
firmly on London and the signs so far are very good. Last month in Brazil he became the world
champion of his age group.

ASH MCCUTCHEON: I didn't believe it. I was like "Did I win?" And I was like - everyone is like
"Yeah". But did I win? I didn't believe it!

BEN KNIGHT: 10 years ago, no-one but fellow riders might've noticed or cared. But extreme sports
like BMX, which created their own hugely successful competitions, are now drifting into the
mainstream.

WADE BOOTES, NATIONAL TALENT IDENTIFICATION COACH: Yeah, basic Olympics are falling back with the X
Games and things like that, they're just trying to keep up with the new breed of kids.

BEN KNIGHT: Former world champion Wade Bootes is Ash McCutcheon's coach. He was still ranked third
in the world last month. At 31, his career is winding down, but he is making one last push for
Beijing.

WADE BOOTES: I'm probably at the end of my career, and just trying to hang on for another two years
and still beat the kids in the sport. Hopefully I will get to that next medal which I don't have.

BEN KNIGHT: He says the arrival of BMX at the Olympics is evidence of a changing attitude to sport.

WADE BOOTES: The new kids want to do more exciting things now. They just don't want to swim down
the swimming pool. They want to actively dive off the cliff and do three somersaults. Doing that on
a BMX bike, getting out there, jumping 40 feet and having fun and that's the new breed of kids now.
They want to be extreme.

BEN KNIGHT: So it seems do the Olympics. But skateboarding is more popular than BMX, so will it be
next to join the establishment?

JASON GULBIN, AIS NATIONAL TALENT SEARCH CO-ORDINATOR: Whether skateboarding gets there in its own
right, time will tell. But from my perspective, I'm very interested in the skateboarding culture,
because they have these wonderful transferrable skills into an existing winter Olympic sport of
Olympic halfpipe.

BEN KNIGHT: It's not just skateboarders who the Sports Commission is targetting.

JASON GULBIN: Many of them are looking at the more hedonistic areas of skateboarding, rock
climbing, surfing, motor cross and the like. We have to really sort of put our tentacles far and
wide to get all available talent in this country.

BEN KNIGHT: In fact, the commission is spending $13 million over the next four years doing just
that. And it can already claim some success in teaching talented athletes a completely new sport.

JASON GULBIN: We were able to transfer the skills that surf beach sprinters had very explosive
characteristics which were important for the sport of skeleton and we were able to within 18
months, not only get Michelle Steel to the Olympic Games but also able to produce a world junior
champion as in that time frame as well. So in reality, there's probably a lot of people out there
who are unaware that they might actually have outstanding attributes for luge, fencing, even
shooting. So perhaps Liz Ellis may have been a fantastic shooter. Shane Warne, a fantastic
wrestler. We just don't know. But many of the skills are transferrable across sports.

BEN KNIGHT: Back at the BMX track, Ash McCutcheon's training has taken on a new urgency since his
win in Brazil.

ASH MCCUTCHEON: I have to step it up now. I can't have Number 1 on my plate and be coming last!

BEN KNIGHT: But being Number 1 and still at school isn't easy.

ASH MCCUTCHEON: To save up for this race, I was doing a paper round, getting up at 5.30, doing that
till 7, then when I got home, I was training to 8, going to school, get home, train till dark and
in the dark I would go to the gym. It's hard to fit everything in.

BEN KNIGHT: And his stiffest competition could come from his own team-mates.

WADE BOOTES: Australia's basically ranked Numeber 1 in the world right now so we have a lot of
elite riders right now doing really well that with the junior development coming up as well, we are
going to have a lot of great riders through the next few years, going into London as well.

ASH MCCUTCHEON: It's not like I would be at the top of the elite in Australia when I'm 18. It's
just not like that. We've still got the high performance team at the moment, they will still be
really fast. They will still be at the top in 2012.

BEN KNIGHT: While the Sports Commission is looking ahead by funding athletes from sports like BMX,
predicting what the other sports of the future will be isn't easy.

JASON GULBIN: Even at the moment, there is a group of video gamers who are lobbying the Chinese
government to at least have video gaming as a demonstration sport at the Olympics. So you never can
predict. So just as you were surprised that the BMX bandits are now an Olympic event, we may have
Xboxers, PlayStations, Nintendo freaks who are now hoping to vie for Olympic medals in the future.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Get your head around an Olympic medal for video games! Ben Knight with that report.