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Youth Sports

BMX rider, 10, from Spring Hill dreams Olympics and going pro one day

Tyler Knight, 10, front, makes a turn during a BMX qualifying round of the Gator Nationals last month in Oldsmar.

Photo by Shawn Knight

Tyler Knight, 10, front, makes a turn during a BMX qualifying round of the Gator Nationals last month in Oldsmar.

SPRING HILL

Every knight needs a steed. For the past four years, Tyler Knight's steed has been his trusty BMX.

Tyler, 10, has risen to the elite of BMX racing over the course of his four-year career. The sport has jumped into the international spotlight thanks to the inaugural running of the event during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Tyler hopes he can be a part of that event in the future.

With his recent success, he's well on his way, including the success he experienced Feb. 22-23 in Oldsmar at the Gator Nationals.

The Gator Nationals is a major event for BMX riders held on a track run by the American Bicycle Association. The competition included the Union Cyclist International World Championship Qualifiers and more than 600 riders from 33 states and 10 countries were on hand, as well as all three medalists from Beijing.

"It was one of the biggest events I'd ever competed in," Tyler said. "Meeting all of these retired racers, pro racers and other riders was real exciting."

Olympic gold medalist Maris Strombergs of Latvia, silver medalist Mike Day and bronze medalist Donny Robinson of the United States all participated. Eric Rupe, Tyler's mentor and role model on the BMX tour, was also in attendance. The California native is the longest running pro BMX rider.

Tyler rose to the occasion in front of all these BMX icons. He won his main event, earning a 4-foot tall trophy for his efforts. He then placed second in the open class, earning a 42-inch tall trophy for that division.

For his phenomenal performance, Tyler was recognized by DUB Magazine as the Rider of the Weekend at the Gator Nationals. The award was presented to him by Rupe, who also gave Tyler the jersey off his back and autographed it.

"There was lots of crying," Shawn Knight, Tyler's father, said. "(The family is) so invested in this, and we've been trying to win an international event like that for four years."

Shawn was the catalyst for his son's interest in the sport. He rode BMX competitively in the early 1980s for nearly 10 years. When marriage and children came along, the sport went on the back burner, but he always intended on showing his son the ropes. With the current popularity of BMX, Tyler has taken that interest to a new level.

Another victory added to Tyler's résumé was when he took the intermediate class title in Oldsmar. The intermediate win was his 25th career title in that class, qualifying him to advance to the expert class for his next competition. Expert class is the highest division a youth can enter prior to turning pro.

With all his exposure to the sport and its icons, Tyler turning pro is not only a real possibility, but something he looks forward to routinely. Now that BMX has been legitimized, including as an Olympic event, he already has his sights set on the 2016 Games.

"If I train more, get faster and race with (tougher competition), I know I can get (to the Olympics)," Tyler said.

Submit feedback, story ideas to communitysports@tampabay.com.

Fast facts

Tyler Knight

Age: 10

School, grade: Deltona Elementary, fourth

Accomplishments:

DUB Magazine Rider of the Weekend, Gator Nationals (2009)

Notable competitive finishes

• State champion, Florida ABA Standard (2006)

• Runner-up, Florida ABA Standard (2007)

• Third place, Florida ABA Standard (2008)

• State champion, Florida ABA Cruiser (2008)

• First place, main event, Gator Nationals (2009)

• Second place, open class, Gator Nationals (2009)

BMX rider, 10, from Spring Hill dreams Olympics and going pro one day 03/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 5:58pm]
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