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OTC celebrates Olympic Day with fun, fitness Phillip Brents | Fri, Jul 05 2013 02:53 PM

The Chula Vista Olympic Training Center celebrated Olympic Day with two recent events on site of the expansive 155-acre facility overlooking Lower Otay Reservoir.

Last Saturday, about 75 riders took a spin on the BMX development course. A week earlier, on June 21, more than 100 children from the South Bay Family YMCA day camp visited the CV-OTC to play games, listen to several Olympic athletes and Olympic hopefuls and experience what the facility has to offer.

Olympic Day is celebrated in more than 160 countries commemorating the birth of the modern Olympic Games, and is an international effort to promote fitness and well-being besides the Olympic ideals of fair play, perseverance, respect and sportsmanship.

Speakers at the YMCA event included Genai Kerr, a member of the 2004 Olympic men’s water polo team, and three members of the women’s seven rugby team: Kimber Rozier, Deven Owsiany and Kelly Griffin. Training center director Tracy Lamb served as emcee for the event.

Kerr, who got his start by playing water polo at Chula Vista and Coronado high schools, stressed to the energetic gathering of children how important it is to be active.

Olympians also took part in last Saturday’s BMX event: Australia’s Sam Willoughby (silver medalist at the 2012 London Games) and Brian Kirkham (2012 Australian national champion) and American Alise Post (2012 USA Cycling BMX Elite national champion).

Willoughby brought along his Olympic silver medal to show excited kids.

“It’s definitely a plus whenever you can get support from the BMX community,” said Chula Vista BMX development track operator Tyler Brown, a 2010 resident athlete at the CV-OTC.

The guest celebrity of the day, however, turned out to be 15-year-old French exchange student Clement Dutheil, a regional BMX champion from his native Lyon, France, who made the trip from Monrovia, just outside Pasadena, to Chula Vista with his host family to participate in the BMX Olympic Day event.

“When he arrived in the United States, we asked him if there was anything special he’d like to do over the summer while he was here,” host mom Teri Walton said. “You’d think it might be something like a visit to Universal Studios but he wanted to come here and race at the Olympic Training Center.”

The group made it just in time to participate in racing. In fact, Walton’s son Christian, who had never touched a BMX bike before, was even coaxed into giving it a try.

The 16-year-old football player tackled the course without a practice run and, despite his feet coming off the pedals twice, managed to compete the circuit.

Dutheil, of course, excelled during his runs on the course.

“First, first, first,” he smiled widely.

So, will Dutheil one day compete in the Olympics for France? Not exactly. His plans are to become a surgeon.

“Right now, this is just for the experience of doing it,” he said. “If I win, I win, it’s cool. If I don’t win, well, it’s okay, it’s still sort of cool.”

Also of note, 11-year-old Santee supergirl Jaydin Wenck graced the Chula Vista BMX track with her presence. She is ranked third nationally in her age group and easily zoomed ahead of the boys to win her heat.

Her plans are to compete in the USA BMX nationals July 12-14 in Las Vegas (held indoors at the South Point Hotel and Casino).
“It’s very competitive,” she said. “You get a lot of excitement from it, and you get to meet people.”

Jacob Eastley won his 5-year-old novice class at the BMX Olympic Day event. Even though he’s only been competing for a month-and-a-half, the youngster still plans to compete at the upcoming Las Vegas nationals.

“He wants me to get into the sport now,” father Dave said. “When you think about it, BMX is actually kind of unique in that a father can participate in the same sport with his son. I don’t think you can do that in baseball.”

(BMX racing has divisions that go from 5-under to 51-older.)

The local track, of course, attracted a sizable contingent of regular riders from its on-site Future BMX development program such as 11-year-old novice Chico Fernandez and 11-year-old intermediate Josiah Schenk and his younger cousin Elijah Nielsen, both of whom were sporting smartly-done 316 Racing jerseys.

Fernandez got into the sport after a field trip visit to the track through his church a few months ago and has been making steady progress, according to Brown.

Even after racing officially concluded last Saturday, Fernandez was still running practice laps on the course.

“I plan to be champion when I get older,” Fernandez said succinctly. “I want to win the Olympics.”

If Fernandez’s dreams come true, Brown said he would be proud to have had a part in that.

“I’ve traveled the world and, for me, this is giving back,” said Brown, who finished third at the 2011 USA nationals. “I’d like to be able to teach others and help them along, perhaps even give kids like Chico a start toward the Olympics.”

Next up at the Chula Vista track is the Race for Life, a fundraiser for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, on July 20.

The Chula Vista track will host the Hall of Fame Nationals Sept. 27-29 during which the UCI Supercross tour will also make a stop at the facility’s Olympic-replica track.

For more information, visit the website at http://chulavistabmx.com.

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