Rio hopeful and prodigy claim BMX series opener
2 January 2016
BMX: Rio Olympic hopeful Melinda McLeod and rising star Brandon Te Hiko have taken out the elite races at the opening round of the 2016 BMX Australia National Series at Nerang on the Gold Coast.
On a typically hot and testing Gold Coast day, almost 300 riders faced the starter in what was the first major sporting event of 2016, the finals taking place under lights.
Te Hiko upset a class field including world number 11 and race favourite Bodi Turner, who crashed while leading on the last turn of the night’s final, along with hulking Northern Territory veteran Matt Juster.
Waiting to pounce was Te Hiko (Geelong BMX Club) and Southlake / Illawarra BMX Club’s Kai Sakakibara who fought out the finish. New Zealander Michael Bias rounded out the podium.
McLeod (Nerang BMX Club) was far to strong for her opposition, not dropping a race all day to get her year off to a flying start. The Gold Coast based rider outpaced Leanna Curtis (Southlake / Illawarra BMX Club) and Kiwi Hannah Sarten.
It was a sweet victory for McLeod, who at the corresponding event last year spectacularly crashed on the second turn and ended up skidding along the bitumen and over the berm’s wall.
That incident began a horror year of injury and accidents for the 22-year-old but the Mackay raised product has worked hard in the off-season and is in tip top shape early in the Olympic year, knowing she must perform at a consistently high level throughout the year if she is to surpass Australia’s top two ranked women Caroline Buchanan and Lauren Reynolds and earn a spot on the Australian team for Rio.
“I made the most of today and tried to put some solid laps together,” McLeod said.
“I saw some of my times throughout the day and they were pretty consistent and that’s what I was aiming for.
“I have to be consistent all year and that’s why I’ve chosen to support the National Series and get to as many races as possible before I go over to the United States. I find when I’m racing a lot I’m in a better frame for the international races.”
In the elite men’s event Te Hiko’s victory was his first at senior level, having stepped up from the elite juniors this season. Understandably, the Victorian 18-year-old, who won a bronze medal in the junior time trial at last year’s world championships in Belgium, was over the moon.
“I was super stoked to come away with the victory,” Te Hiko said.
“There’s been so much hard work and preparation put into these races. Being the first year of elite I knew I had to work really hard for it.
“I knew I had to do that to mix it with the big boys.”