BMX taking Jessie Smith around the world

By James Perry

Jessie Smith has come a long way in the BMX world despite her relative youth.

"I've been riding for 13 years. In that time I've gotten eight national championship titles and five world titles. BMX is pretty much my life at the moment," says 17-year-old Smith (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāpuhi).

The Hillcrest High School student will take a step closer to realising her ultimate dream when she represents New Zealand at the Youth Olympics in Argentina later this year. 

Argentina will be the latest destination for Smith, having already competed in places such as the USA, Australia, Colombia and Azerbaijan.

Smith began riding BMX at the age of 4 in Gisborne.

Her three siblings all raced as well, but "have moved on to other things."

However, her family have continued to support her while she chases her BMX dreams and that has included moving away from their East Coast home.

"We made the decision to go from Gisborne to the Waikato to give me a better chance at going to the Olympics," she says. 

The move to Hamilton has seen Smith come into contact with Olympic BMX silver medalist Sarah Walker, who Smith describes as her 'coach, and mentor.'  Walker has also assisted Smith financially. 

As well as earning selection to the Youth Olympics alongside Cailen Calkin, Smith will participate in coming weeks at qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. 

Smith will be 19 by the time Tokyo rolls around.  Walker says that usually riders at that age would probably be looking toward 2024 as more realistic.  However something they're working on with Jessie Smith is "getting her to the point where she believes that she could be the fastest New Zealander for Tokyo 2020."

So that means training with her as much as possible. 

At those qualifying tournaments Smith will find herself racing alongside and against her mentor, fulfilling yet another dream of hers. 

"We're training partners.  It's pretty much been a dream of mine to be up there and race her."

Walker, while admitting she doesn't want to lose to her protege, is excited by her talent.

"On a good day she'll beat me, even on a normal day she'll push me to the max." 

So it seems Jessie Smith and her bike will be flying to all corners of the globe for a while to come yet.