People of LoganFebruary 29, 2024 / 3 minute read

Bikes, backflips and empowerment

After winning 2 BMX freestyle national titles, Kayla McCormick, 14, is already gunning for her next milestone – the Brisbane 2032 Summer Olympics.

The Underwood teen showed signs of becoming an elite athlete from a young age as a bold, mischievous girl often found jumping off pieces of furniture to the dismay of her mum, Wendy.

From age 5, Kayla enjoyed BMX racing with her brother and in 2022, she was identified as an Olympic prospect for BMX freestyle by the You For 2032 program.

Designed by the Queensland Academy of Sports, You For 2032 matches young Queensland talents with the sport they have the most potential to succeed in at an elite level.

‘Kayla and many in her cohort are at the perfect age to achieve peak performance by 2032,’ Wendy says.

‘They will have had enough time to build resilience, improve their skills and gain experience.’

Although Wendy initially baulked at the idea of her daughter participating in such an extreme sport, it’s been a wild – and rewarding – ride for both.

‘Kayla has become incredibly settled and mature because she’s getting adrenaline through calculated risk-taking,’ Wendy says.

‘Before BMX, she had a rebellious streak and was starting to get mixed up with the wrong crowd, but she’s really pulled herself straight now because she wants to do well at her sport.’

Kayla is proud of how far she’s come and the new connections she’s made.

As a person of colour and one of only a handful of girls that participate in the sport, Kayla says it took a lot of courage to start riding with the boys at local skate parks.

‘Kayla is a first generation Australian with South African, Afro-Caribbean and Irish heritage, and she’s often the only person of colour at BMX freestyle events,’ Wendy says.

‘It’s pretty cool – people often stop to look when they notice her training at skate parks.’

Kayla says she initially felt like an outsider, but quickly realised how inclusive and supportive the community is.

‘When visiting the skate parks, those boys can look incredibly fierce sometimes, but they really just love everyone who’s willing to turn up and have a go,’ Wendy says.

‘Even if you’re someone like Kayla who doesn’t fit the stereotype, you’d be surprised by how others embrace and celebrate you.

‘What really makes a difference is when you can ride as well as them, or even sometimes teach them some tricks – Kayla’s a good little shredder and that’s how she got their respect.’

Kayla’s coach and City of Logan local Nathan ‘Lanky’ Philips says the sky is the limit for her.

‘Her ability to focus when necessary and not muck around during important moments is what has carried her as far as she’s come,’ he says.

‘I’m seeing similarities in her riding to current Olympic hopeful Natalya Diehm when she was Kayla’s age, so I certainly expect big things of her.’

Kayla is currently honing her skills for the upcoming 2024 Oceania Cycling Championships in Brisbane on 24 March.

She hopes to inspire other girls to join the sport and reach the Olympic podium one day.

Check out Kayla’s awesome BMX tricks on her Instagram.

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