Two years ago, Tyler Heinrichs was a kid who liked to ride his bike. These days, he's competing at world championships. Heinrichs practices at the Tampa BMX Raceway in Lutz where his father, Art Heinrichs, is president of the track. Over the span of two years, he has improved from a beginner to a top rider in his age class and is competing for Team USA. "I thought when I started riding my bike that this was just going to be something I did for fun," Tyler, 13, said. "After I got into racing though, I started traveling across the state and then the region, and eventually, I had a lot of friends across the country. I've just enjoyed it so much. It's become something I really want to continue being successful at." Tyler feels the key to his success has been a combination of practice and the people he knows. Also, it didn't hurt that his father became the president of the raceway once Tyler started riding.
"My dad being president of the track allows me to be here and be involved with every aspect of racing," Tyler said. "I've got a lot of good friends and trainers that have helped me a lot over the last few years and getting to know how to race at a facility like this makes it easy to improve."
His hard work has taken Tyler around the world. He is ranked 12th in the world in the 20-inch BMX racing category and recently earned a place on Team USA, which heads to Australia in July for the BMX World Championships.
Tyler's trainer, M.J. Peters, says Tyler's success has come from his work ethic and fearless approach to biking. After meeting Tyler at the track, the 24-year-old Peters began traveling to other countries, including China, and around the United States with Tyler.
"What drew me to Tyler is that he is naturally strong for his size and age," Peters said. "He has the assets to be a very powerful rider — he just has to work on his skills. From a year ago to now, Tyler has improved incredibly fast, and I think it's because he is never afraid to try anything. I always say, 'Go big or go home,' and that's how he is, too."
For the Heinrichs family, BMX has become a serious undertaking.
"He took to the sport like a duck to water and that got me involved in it," Al Heinrichs said. "I love putting all this together for the kids. You don't have to be a millionaire to ride a bike, so it's one of those sports where there are people from all walks of life. It's really a family sport because you see families where brothers and sisters and their parents all ride."
For Tyler, BMX is more than just a sport he competes in. It's a much valued social network as well.
"Going to places like China and Australia is amazing, but it's traveling around with teammates and the friendships you create that make it special," Tyler said.
"Meeting all these people as I've gone around makes you realize that BMX is one big family. When you're racing, it's hard because you're friends with everyone off the track, but it's a lot of fun competing against your friends at the same time."
Submit feedback, story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.