The U.S. Olympic Training Center-Chula Vista hosted two major BMX championship events to cap the month of March. The 2014 USA Cycling Elite BMX National Championships took place on March 29 while the 2014 UCI North American Continental BMX championships took place on March 30.
Olympic veterans Connor Fields (Elite Men) and Alise Post (Elite Women) swept their divisions in both events while Santee’s Sean Gaian (Junior Elite Men) finished first in the continental championship final to highlight a strong showing by Americans.
Stars & Stripes
Fields finished ahead of Californian Jared Garcia (Victorville) and Canada’s Tory Nyhaug to win the North American Elite Men’s championship after topping Barry Nobles (Sun City) and Steven Cisar (Altadena) the previous day in the U.S. nationals.
Post finished ahead of Brooke Crain (Visalia) and Felicia Stancil (Lake Villa, Ill.) to win the North American Elite Women’s title after speeding past Stancil and Crain at the U.S. finals.
Newly crowned U.S. champion Shealen Reno (Plano, Texas) out-dueled Mexico’s Jhoanna Hernandez to win the Junior Elite Women’s North American championship.
The Elite Men’s field at the U.S. nationals featured 20 riders, including defending champion Nic Long of Lakeside. The final heat featured a who’s who in BMX world-class racing: Long, Fields, Tucson’s Corben Sharrah and 2012 Olympian David Herman (Wheat Ridge, Colo.).
Fields was challenged, rising from third to first, to reclaim the title he had won in 2012.
Gaian is no stranger to competing at the elite levels of BMX racing. Last July in Auckland, N.Z., Gaian captured the hearts of a nation by winning the UCI BMX world championship in the Junior Men’s Division. In October 2011, Gaian, then 15, was honored by the city after winning his age division at the UCI world championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
His goal is to represent the United States in the sport in the 2016 Olympic Games. He took one step closer toward realizing that goal after winning the Junior Elite Men’s race at the 2014 UCI North American Continental BMX championships, held March 30 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.
The 2013 junior Supercross world champion, who has been riding since he was 4, accelerated past 2014 U.S. national champion Collin Hudson (Longmont, Colo.) on the final turn to win from the No. 3 position. Hudson finished second, followed by fellow Californian Alden Volle (Penryn).
The championship victory at the continental finals made amends, the West Hills High School senior said, after crashing in the championship race of the preceding day’s U.S. national championship event, held at the same site.
Gaian had attempted to pass Hudson on the second turn in the March 29 U.S. championship race but his bike came into contact with Hudson’s rear wheel, sending the Santee rider down and out of contention. Hudson, a five-time amateur world champion, rode a clear path to victory, followed by Cole Tesar (Huntersville, N.C.) and Joshua Banuelos (Medford, Ore.). The 18-year-old Gaian had led after the first turn.
Gaian, who is ranked No. 1 in the world in his age-group, refers to himself as a “proud American.” He admitted he was especially proud to capture the 2014 continental championship after being too ill to compete in the 2013 continental finals.
For his efforts, the Santee teenager was honored by the San Diego Hall of Champions as one of its Stars of the Month for March.
Gaian said he “puts a lot of hard work and effort” into the sport to maintain a competitive edge.
BMX profile: Sean Gaian
Gaian is a senior at West Hills High School in Santee. He has been competing in BMX racing since he was 4 and, 14 years later, is currently ranked No. 1 in his age-group in the world.
•Gaian said he got his start in BMX while watching a family friend compete. He was so enthralled by what he saw that he himself took up racing despite his tender age. He had turned expert by 5.
•Gaian said what he likes most about the sport is the opportunity it offers to have friends all over the country and travel around the world. His only dislike about the sport is its relative obscurity despite being elevated to an Olympic sport at the 2008 Beijing Games.
•Gaian said he gathers motivation from the atmosphere surrounding each event and the “tough competition,” he noted, that comes with BMX racing. He said it’s always a thrill to compete against the fastest young riders from foreign countries.
•Gaian said his idol is U.S. champion and Olympian Connor Fields. Gaian said Fields treats him like a younger brother and that Fields’ mentoring and coaching have definitely helped him become a better rider.
•Gaian’s advice to up-and-coming BMX riders is to ride hard while having fun — two qualities that can only spur personal improvement.