Sumiko Yuki began coveting her little brother’s BMX racing trophies when she was about 6 years old.
“He was competing locally,” Sumiko explained, “and I just really wanted one of his trophies. I said, ‘Can I have just one?’ ”
Three-year-old Ryan’s response: “Earn your own.”
So Sumiko started racing, too.
That was about six years ago, and since then, Sumiko, aka “The Rocket,” has accumulated more trophies and hardware than she likely could have imagined. In fact, in November, she became the national BMX racing champion in her age group.
Now a seventh-grader at Harper Junior High School, Sumiko says BMX racing is an absolute rush.
“Once I started, I just got hooked,” she explained. “It’s really adrenaline-pumping.”
That it is.
BMX is dirt racing, against a handful of other riders on courses featuring lots of hills and jumps, big air and deep turns, and, often, big spills.
The sport, which took off in California in the 1960s, made its second appearance in the Olympic Games in London last year.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, hundreds of BMX racers from the United States and Canada gathered in Oklahoma for the American Bicycle Association Grand Nationals. The ABA nationals are the final race of the season, with the coveted NAG1 title up for grabs in each age group.
Not only did Sumiko take first place among 11-year-old girls (she has since turned 12), she ended the season ranked No. five among girls of all ages. She is the current 2012 NorCal state champion and had 20 national wins last year.
She credits the coaching she’s received over the years from her dad as well as Eric Dyer, owner of the Vendetta Factory team in Citrus Heights. But Sumiko herself has had to put in a lot of time on the bike to reach the level she’s reached.
She trains three to four times a week and makes sure to spend time on her bike every day. It can be tough keeping up with her schoolwork, she said, but it’s worth it.
“I’m happy racing,” she said.
Even with all her success, she said she still gets nervous at the big races, like nationals in Oklahoma last year, which Sumiko called “the biggest race of the year.”
But she went into the competition feeling confident because she’d been training — and winning — all year.
“You just have to race your race and make sure you’re really focused,” she said.
It paid off.
Now Sumiko enters the 2012 season as the top racer among 12-year-old girls. Her ultimate goal, she said, “is to compete in the Olympics for my sport.”
That will have to wait, though, as the she’ll need to be at least 19 to make the U.S. team, she said.
In the meantime, she’ll be working on her techniques, from maneuvering to jumping, in preparation for the 2020 Olympic games, scheduled to be held in Turkey, Japan or Spain.
“You just have to practice,” she said. “Lots of practice.”
See Sumiko in action at the Oklahoma nationals on the Vendetta team website, http://vendettaformbmx.com/?page=showrider&riderid=6.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy