Kieran Reilly has talked up his chances of winning a BMX freestyle gold at the Olympic Games next year, following a series of landmark victories in 2023.
The 22-year-old from Gateshead said victory in Paris was “always going to be the goal” and he does not have his “head in the clouds” as focus turns to the showpiece event.
Reilly won the National BMX Freestyle Championships in Nottingham last month, which added to the gold medals he won at the European Games in Krakow in June and the UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow in August, beating reigning Olympic champion Logan Martin in the latter.
He shot to fame in January 2021 after breaking a world record by completing the world’s first triple flair on a BMX.
Reilly, a Red Bull athlete, told the PA news agency: “I think the year I’ve had this year, the biggest growth for me has been confidence, learning so much about myself that I can beat these riders who, growing up, [were] guys that I idolised.
“It took a while to really flip the switch on my mindset and want to beat these guys, and I’ve done that this year at the biggest events.
“Everyone who attended the Tokyo Olympics was at the World Championships in Glasgow, and if beating the Olympic champion wasn’t going to give me the confidence to beat him at the Olympics then I don’t know what was.”
BMX freestyle will appear at the Olympics for a second time after making its debut at the Tokyo 2020 games, with a total of 24 riders – 12 men and 12 women – competing at La Concorde Urban Park in Paris.
Two qualifying events in Shanghai and Budapest will be held in May and June next year to determine who will appear at the Games, but Reilly said the showpiece event was already firmly in his thoughts.
“The competitive mindset I have, the second I qualify for these Games the mindset and goal switches from getting there to getting gold and that’s always going to be the goal,” he continued.
“I think that gold is a good goal for me – I haven’t got my head in the clouds thinking that, and when I get to Paris that’s going to be what I’ve got my sights set on.”
It is likely that those two events will be only competitive BMX meets before the Olympics and Reilly acknowledged “there’s a lot of unknown” going into the Games, but he insisted he hopes to debut some new tricks of his own and would “have some surprises” ready for Paris.
He is currently practising these tricks at his training base – Adrenaline Alley in Corby, Northamptonshire – but this remains one of very few purpose-built professional riding areas in England.
Reilly said BMX was now at a position where it deserves greater investment in facilities, particularly with the UK’s recent success in competitions and its growing popularity.
He said: “Now I think, on the British Cycling Team, we have seven or eight guys and three girls and they all are podium potential at the Games and at every single World Cup.
“We have arguably the biggest [and] one of the most competitive teams of riders going into any of these events, so it almost makes sense for a sport where we have this potential to dominate, why wouldn’t you try and find that missing factor and help with facilities?”
Reilly stressed the investment was even more critical as more people now take BMX seriously alongside more established sports, such as football and swimming.
He added: “Now parents are pushing their kids into it. It was more of a hobby that parents weren’t really supporting.
“A lot of kids went into playing football for a Saturday team and riding their bikes was just a side hobby. Now parents have seen that you can have a career in this sport.
“I’ve seen a lot more parents at the skate park now rooting on their kids and entering their kids in amateur competitions.”