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Ramping up for Paris together

Alongside his own medal ambitions, Daniel Dhers is reveling in his role as Team China's BMX coach

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-22 07:52
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Chinese rider Sun Sibei executes a stunt on her way to leading a Chinese 1-2-3 finish in the women's BMX freestyle park preliminaries at the Olympic Qualifier Series in Shanghai on Friday. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

A false landing ruined his first run, before the early-summer heat threw him off the pace in his second attempt. Daniel Dhers, however, was all smiles at the conclusion of BMX freestyle park finals on Saturday at Shanghai's Huangpu Riverside. Not for a sub-par 10th-place finish at the critical Olympic qualifier, which may prove costly for his own Paris 2024 prospects, but more for seeing three home riders sweep the women's podium as a coach of the Chinese BMX team.

"It's been a rollercoaster of emotions today," the legendary Venezuelan rider, known as the "Godfather of BMX", said after watching China's Sun Sibei, Sun Jiaqi and Deng Yawen finish one, two and three, respectively, in the women's final to a rousing reaction from the Shanghai crowd.

"It started with the girls and they absolutely destroyed the competition. Top three, it's crazy. I will use their results as my motivation to do better myself in Budapest. Hopefully, I can still make it to Paris," said Dhers, who started coaching Team China about a year ago.

Coaching full-time while also riding himself, Dhers is embracing the balancing act — the latest challenge of a celebrated career for the 39-year-old BMX freestyler, who has seen it and done it all in an action sport defined by many popular tricks that he invented and perfected, all while collecting a hatful of awards, including a silver medal at Tokyo 2020 and five X-Games titles.

Securing a second Olympic trip to the French capital with the remaining ranking points up for grabs at the second qualifier in Budapest next month would be the icing on the cake, but Dhers' legacy as a rider has been secured.

Riding against, and along with, many of the world's elites at different events, Dhers enjoys the camaraderie within the sport's community that has been evolving around his base camp — the Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex — built at Holly Springs in North Carolina exactly 10 years ago.

To many of the younger generation, such as five-time women's world champion Hannah Roberts of the United States, and men's reigning Olympic champion Logan Martin, Dhers is more of an idol or mentor, rather than a threat.

He now seems more devoted to helping the "Kingdom of Bicycles "land the ultimate prize, even though he initially turned down the Team China offer last year.

"I said 'no' for, like, a month, and the main reason was because I just didn't really have the time. I'm busy traveling and have other endeavors with sponsors," explained Dhers, who was approached by Team China before last August's world championships in Glasgow.

"They gave me a tremendous amount of flexibility, and here we are.

"I'm here to help them try to win the gold and silver at the Olympic Games," said the ambitious Dhers.

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