OLDSMAR — Josh Meyers is used to coming home from BMX events with a bagful of trophies. He has been doing it since he was 6.
Still, Meyers, a Treasure Island native, has constantly worked to the side of the main stage, winning nearly every race in his forgotten sport in the United States and elsewhere. BMX (bicycle motocross) has lurked in the shadows of motocross and skateboarding in the action sports world.
That all changed when the International Olympic Committee added men's and women's BMX racing to the Summer Games in 2008.
It also set Meyers on a career path.
"The Olympics is the ultimate goal for everyone in this sport," Meyers said. "There's not a lot of money in BMX racing. It's a pride-driven sport. But everyone thinks it would be cool to represent your country in the Olympics. It's the highest honor."
Meyers, 23, has shed his anonymity. He is one of six riders vying for three spots on the BMX team that will represent the United States in the 2012 Summer Games in London. He also is the only rider from Florida who has been invited to train at the USA Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
"I feel I have a legitimate chance to make it," Meyers said. "It's something I never would have imagined when I got into this sport."
Thanks to his father, Meyers has racing in his blood, and he long imagined a route that would bring him closer to the path his father followed.
Only that was in motocross. His grandmother and mother did not think that was safe and encouraged him to ride on a bicycle instead of a motorcycle.
"That was probably a good thing because if I did the same thing on a motorcycle that I do on a bicycle, I probably wouldn't be alive," Meyers said.
In BMX, riders race in motos, or heats of up to eight riders that vary in age and skill. They pedal down a steep slope at the start toward a series of man-made jumps and sharp turns. Competitors ride standing up and flex their legs so they can act as shock absorbers. Each race lasts about 45 seconds and ends with an all-out effort at the finish that often leaves riders breathless.
"Right from the get-go, you snap out of the gate and it's a full sprint on the bike," Meyers said. "It's tough and intense."
To prepare for races, Meyers spends three days a week in the gym and three more on the track. He builds power with squats and dead lifts. The stamina and speed comes from practice rounds.
Meyers does most of his training in California. When he is not there, he is at BMX Oldsmar.
"I pretty much live at the track," Meyers said. "I'm constantly working at getting better. I need it because I'm real aggressive when I'm out there."
That go-for-gusto approach sometimes has drawbacks. In March, Meyers was trying to navigate a treacherous turn in a World Cup semifinal when he was involved in a pileup with three other riders. He broke his collarbone.
But Meyers gave little thought to suspending his season. Not with so much at stake.
"It hurts a little, but I have to just keep on going," Meyers said. "The competition to grab one of those spots on the Olympic team is intense. It has everyone on edge. You want to find a way to give an extra-oomph in each race. But I know I have to take a more careful strategy."
The selections will be made in May and are determined mostly by the leaders in points and wins in World Cup races.
"I'm nervous," Meyers said. "I really want to be an Olympic athlete."