By Cyndy Beal
For an athlete to become an Olympian is a dream for many and a journey of thousands of self-disciplined steps.
In the midst of Wheat Ridge, there are two such athletes who’ve successfully made the trek to start the Olympic journey, David Herman and Jessica Lopez. Both are competing in the 2012 XXX Summer Olympic Games from July 27 to Aug. 12 in London.
Herman, a 24-year-old Wheat Ridge resident, was the first one to qualify for the United States 2012 US BMX team of five, three on the men’s team and two on the women’s team. The Olympic BMX races are Aug. 8-10.
BMX is a fast-paced sport, with an outside dirt track ranging from 300 to 400 meters and includes jumps, bumps and banked corners. The track in London is 400 meters or approximately 437 yards.
“When I was younger, I loved the jumping.” said Herman. He started racing at the age of eight. He said it is evolved now, and he loves the sport overall and the traveling. Herman travels about half of the weekends in a year and rides most days.
BMX is an acronym for Bicycle Motor Cross. It is a sport that originated in the United States in the late 1960s. The riders race on a dirt track similar to motorcycle motorcross. The dirt course has a starting gate for eight racers and a finish line. Each heat (race) is one lap around the track and lasts less than 40 seconds.
BMX racing made its debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Herman did not qualify for the 2008 games, so 2012 is his first Olympics.
Herman became interested in the sport watching his older brother race at a BMX track in Arvada. The Arvada track no longer exists but by the time the younger Herman was in sixth grade, he was one of the top riders in the country. He now is the U.S. top BMX elite rider, with very consistent riding in the last year at various competitions. He is one of the top BMX riders in the world.
Herman rides a Free Agent Bike that weighs 20 pounds. BMX racing bikes range in weight from 17 to 23 pounds and are small-framed with 20-inch wheels. If a bike is too light, it takes away from stability, and the bike could break apart.
BMX racing sometimes is regarded as “just a little kid sport,” said Herman. This is due to the size of the bikes and young racers. Herman said that is a misperception that BMX racers are working to dispel, particularly getting people to understand the sport and not confuse it with Freestyle, where riders perform stunts and tricks.
At the 2008 Games, the U.S. BMX team won silver and bronze medals, but no gold. Gold medals were one by the French and Latvian teams in Beijing. Herman wants either himself or somebody on the U.S. team to win a gold medal in 2012 to help validate and promote this newest Olympic sport.
For most of July, Herman will be at U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., before making his way to London. Herman is thankful for the support of many, including Armbrust Pro Gym in Wheat Ridge.
Herman’s advice for those interested in BMX is to go to http://www.usabmx.com.
Lopez lives in Westminster and trains with her coach, Nilson Savage, at TIGAR (The International Gymnastics Academy of the Rockies) in Wheat Ridge. Lopez is thankful to TIGAR and regards them as the best gymnastic facility in Colorado.
Lopez is a 26 year-old Venezuelan Olympic gymnast who competed in the 2008 Beijing games. The Olympic Gymnastic dates are July 28 to Aug. 7.
She trains six to seven hours a day, six days a week. Lopez joked that she “thinks about gymnastics 25 hours a day.” When her parents came to visit her in Colorado, her mom said she saw Lopez doing gymnastics in her sleep.
Lopez is the only gymnast living in Colorado competing in artistic gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics, and also the only one to qualify for the Venezuelan team.
Women’s artistic gymnastics has four events: uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise, and vault. In 2008, the International Gymnastics Federation started a new scoring system, eliminating the once perfect 10. Gymnasts now receive two marks, one for difficulty and one for execution in each event. The two scores are added together and usually range from 14 to 17 for Olympic gymnasts.
Lopez said she considers herself “a good all-arounder,” for the four events; but is known for her performance on the uneven bars. In 2010 at the World Cup, Lopez placed 10th in the all around.
Lopez started with gymnastics when she was about five, after becoming interested in the sport from watching her older sister, who also was a gymnast.
Lopez made her way to the United States after being recruited by the University of Denver at the 2003 World Championships. She started at DU on a scholarship in 2005. Lopez graduated from DU in 2009 with a psychology major. She did not speak English when she first came to the States, so in addition to being a full-time college student and a member of the DU Womens’ gymnastic team, she was also learning a new language.
This is Lopez’ second Olympics, and at 26 probably her last. A gymnast must be 16 years of age to be an Olympian. Most of the gymnasts she will compete against are teenagers.
She loves the sport. “Every day is a challenge,” said Lopez. “Competing is my passion; I love performing.” Her advice to young talented gymnasts is to “never give up.” Lopez additionally said it takes three or four years of gymnastic training to learn the sport.
For most of the month of July, Lopez is training in Spain, with the Spanish National Team, before heading to London.
For more information on the London 2012 Olympics, go to http://www.london2012.com