BOGOTA – The Colombian cycling academies hoping to produce the next Mariana Pajon – two-time Olympic champion in women’s BMX – or bronze medalists Carlos Oquendo and Carlos Ramirez are back in business after being shut down for five months by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though health authorities have classified BMX as high-risk in terms of spreading coronavirus, which has claimed nearly 28,000 lives in the country while infecting more than 900,000 people, the schools embarked last month on a gradual re-opening.
“They were five very tough months where initially, we tried to a virtual adaptation, but the sport is precisely this, a sport in the open air,” Santiago Silva, director of the W1 BMX Club, tells EFE at a track outside Bogota, pointing out that “not all children have room at home” to ride a bike.
“Fortunately, we managed to open in September with everything in the way of protocols,” he says.
Since then, kids – some as young as 2 – and their parents have flocked to the track and submitted to the requirements of social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
“We are doing it with very limited groups, making an adjustment to the system of how people have to schedule and prepare their classes. We were able to return and we are doing well. People are doing it the best way,” Silva says.
The children are delighted to be back on their bikes.
“I returned with enthusiasm, with everything, and I have improved a lot. Because, as happened to me in the pandemic, you never know when the last practice is,” student Mateo Fuentes tells EFE of his first few weeks back on the track at W1 BMX.
During the enforced absence from the track, he concentrated on fitness training and exercises designed to improve balance.
“Here, you can feel free, ride and you don’t have to be shut in all the time,” Mateo says.
One of the coaches at W1 BMX, Daniel Benavides, says it is “very nice” to return to work, not only for the income, but because the students are now especially receptive.
“The chip has changed a great deal in the attitude of the youngsters,” he says. “Because they come from home, from being bored at home, appreciating what they have on the track – they come with a very different mentality to train, to win.”
Silva says he is very aware of how lucky W1 BMX Club is to have the use of a private track, given that academies operating at public facilities are still awaiting permission to resume training.
“Being a private club, we had support from the owner of the property. He gave us hand with the fixed costs we had, which are very high. We were able to maintain ourselves,” the director tells EFE. “Obviously we are carrying that debt now, but I believe we will make it.”