Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“Crazy tricks, crazy air time, loads of spins, almost like gymnastics with a bike.” Declan Brooks on freestyle BMX’s Olympic debut

Posted on 20 January 2020 by Callum Room

Growing up with a dad who loved two-wheeled bikes, whether it was motorbikes, motocross or BMX.  It seemed almost inevitable that Declan Brooks would find himself representing Team GB across the globe in one of the most extreme Olympic sports.

Speaking to the Sports Gazette following his podium finish at the freestyle World Cup and a 10th placed finish in the World Championships, Brooks was pleased that he ended the year on such a high.

“I was stoked to just make both finals in both events, that was a big one for me,” he said.

“To get second at the freestyle World Cup was pretty crazy and then to make the top ten in one of the biggest freestyle contests we have in the year is pretty good going.”

Photo Credit: Declan Brooks

After being announced as part of Team GB’s inaugural BMX Freestyle Park World Class Programme in 2018, Brooks will be looking to secure himself a spot on the team that will be flying to Tokyo later this year.

“One of my proudest moments to date other than the third at the European Championship was getting on the shortlist for the GB team,” Brooks said.

“A silver or gold at the European Championship would have been nice but it’s such a tight contest.

“The opportunity to be a part of something [at the Olympics] that no other BMX rider has been a part of is amazing.”

After picking up a bronze medal at the European Championships in October, Brooks is hoping to write himself into the history books and win one of the first Olympic freestyle BMX medals.

“The aim is a medal,” he said.

“It’s always go for gold, but a medal would be nice.”

Photo Credit: Declan Brooks

The 23-year-old from Portsmouth has been riding his BMX for over 14 years and was surprised when he found out that freestyle BMX had been approved as an Olympic sport back in 2017.

“I never thought that it would actually be considered for an Olympic sport but it makes sense because it is such a thrilling sport to watch.

“Even if you don’t know anything about it, it will make really good tv and I’m stoked to be a part of it.”

Freestyle BMX’s inclusion into the games will see the competition follow the same format as the World Cup and the World Championship events. Riders will use a combination of box jumps, ramps and quarter pipes in order to get the highest score over the run.

“A 60-second run, best-run counts,” Brooks explained.

“It’s judged on five different things which are the same as any other competition that we go to.

“These are the difficulty of the trick, the originality, it’s style and flow, the height and also the consistency.”

Photo Credit: Declan Brooks

With the Olympics changing from the more traditional events and beginning to incorporate new ‘urban’ sports, such as freestyle BMX and skateboarding, many will be watching these extreme sports for the first time. The sport promises to keep spectators entertained with its acrobatic nature and jaw-dropping tricks and spins.

“You can expect to see crazy tricks, crazy airtime, loads of spins almost like gymnastics with a bike,” he said.

“Everyone’s going to have their tricks well dialled before they go, and everything is going to be perfect.

“It’ll be who do the craziest run with the hardest tricks, landed the best. It will be a crazy event.”

Freestyle BMX is relatively unknown outside the cycling community and Brooks hopes that its inclusion in the Olympic games will raise the profile of the sport and inspire a new generation of youngsters onto the bike. This he says, can only be a good thing for the sport as it will prompt the opening of new skateparks all over the country.

Brooks currently trains at Adrenalin Alley in the East Midlands which is one of Europe’s biggest skateparks. The park boasts 5 different rooms with a number of different ramps, boxes and quarter pipes which are perfect for his training leading into the Olympic Games.

Photo Credit: Declan Brooks

The Games begin in just seven months and an injury now could end the dream for any of the hopefuls. Just a year and a half ago Brooks suffered a broken leg and his place on the Olympic shortlist came under threat.

“A year and a half ago I broke my leg and I was out for six months,” he said.

“This was just when the Olympic selection had started and they were picking the team.

“I had to stay strong, keep the focus and stay up to date with my fitness while I couldn’t be on the bike. I managed to still get onto the team and then to get a third on my return at the World Cup straight after it all, that was a pretty special moment.”