A 15-year-old from Waynesville hopes to be part of the women’s USA BMX bike team at the 2008 Olympics after a successful run in the national BMX circuit last year.
Michele Curtis, a sophomore at Tuscola High School, ranked 10th in the nation and first in the Southeast in her age division and class. Curtis, who started racing just a year ago, has already competed in 79 races in 13 states.
The 2008 Olympics will be the first to feature competition in BMX, a sport where bike riders make laps around a dirt course with dips and jumps. BMX was an exhibition sport in the last Olympics, meaning riders would show off their riding but not compete with official teams or vie for medals. The USA BMX team will have 16 women and 32 men.
“As long as I stay in the top 10, I have a very good chance,” Curtis said of the Olympics.
Curtis will face tougher competition this year as she moves up to the next category. Last year, she competed in the 14-year-old girls category. This year, she moved up to the junior women’s division as an elite rider instead of novice.
Curtis has made a good showing in the new division. She’s already raced twice this year and has held her placement among the top 10 in the nation.
Curtis will be racing back-to-back every month through the first of July to begin qualifying for the US Olympic team. She must compete in six races in the elite category by July and rank in the top 10 riders in the Grand National Championship to qualify for the 2007 World Championships to be held in Canada.
“The Worlds will be like practice for the Olympics because all the same people will be there,” Curtis said.
Curtis learned how to ride from her boyfriend, Chris Beasley, who has been racing for years. Beasley recently moved to Florida, but the two have kept up a long-distance relationship and get to see each other at races in the Southeast regional circuit.
Curtis is on the Schanewolf Racing team. She is sponsored by Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, Fly Racing, and Schanewolf Cycle Sports in Shelby.