At 13, Ava Brown has broken her wrist, leg and elbow pursuing the sport she loves. But the teenager from Kirk Sandall is undeterred as she gears up for the BMX World Championships in Belgium this summer.
In fact, her passion for the BMX track is such that after breaking her femur in October, 2017, then losing four precious months of training, she went on to take the British Championships title at Blackpool in August of last year.
The Hungerhill School pupil has been ranked number one in her age group since she began competing in 2014, and after her first year in competitions she has always qualified for the World Championships.
She got to only one, in 2015, as in subsequent years the events took place first in Colombia, then South Carolina in the United States in 2017, and Baku, Azerbaijan in 2018.
A bit too far, cost-wise, to make the travelling easy, said Ava's dad Russ Brown, who is both head coach and chair at the self-financing Balby BMX club to which riders travel from as far as Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham and Hull to train.
Ava travels to the Manchester racetrack once a week and to a coach in Rugby, Warwickshire each month for assessment and a fresh plan.
Her ultimate goal, said Russ, who became involved in the Balby club as a result of Ava’s interest, is to get on the British cycling team, then potentially train towards the World Championships at elite level, and maybe even head for the Olympics.
Ava’s devotion to the sport began at the age of nine.
“She learned to ride a bike at three, then later wanted to join me in road riding, which I do for fitness,” explained her dad.
“I told her no as it wouldn’t be safe – it’s not even safe for me, and she came to me with a youtube video of bmx riding and said ‘that’s what I want to do’.
“She took to it straight away and went on to win her first national race at Peckham in 2014. From then she went on to four European Championships and the 2015 World Championships.
“When in hospital with a broken leg she kept her bike by her bed in the ward, which says it all really….”
Ava races nationally for the team Odum Racing. She races against boys until national level, when the sheer volume of competitors makes it necessary to categorise by sex and age, and in her own age catchment at European and World levels.
Last year she made the final of the European Championships in Marseilles and came sixth, from 80-plus top riders.
“She enjoys all sport including netball and football, but loves the whole BMX scene,” added Russ.
“She’s made some really good friends out on the circuit, from Denmark and Holland, and they keep in touch. It’s the whole thing that appeals.”
It will be a family trip to Belgium for the World Championships later this year, with mum Natalie, and sister Mia, a drama student at York, there to cheer Ava on.
“We look at the programme for the year and see which competitions we can get to as a family, or whether it’s just me taking Ava,” said her dad.
“Mia is involved in musical theatre so there are commitments there too and we balance it all out as best we can.”
The start of the national BMX competitive season kicks off next month at Manchester.
“Our club is self-funding, with a yearly membership fee and strong parental support,” said Russ.
“There are one or two good local businesses linked to the club who help out, and we do some fundraising from time to time.
“We attract the membership from a wide catchment because there are so few other facilities. Manchester, Derby and Bradford are the only alternatives but the Bradford track is a bit old and worn now.”
The BMX riders in Balby range from four years of age to 55-plus.
“We run the club as a community and sometimes get parents taking up the sport and joining as a direct result of their children becoming members,” added Russ.
“New members can start as a novice and learn to ride on a track safely and competently.
“Then they go on to novice racing, and finally expert racing.
“From there it goes on to qualifying for national competition, European and finally the World Championships.
“There’s the singles sport element but also a lot of unity within the club.
“Ava enjoys the fact that it’s herself in control when competing, as opposed to a team sport.
“ She finds that exciting and trains hard for strength and conditioning.
“ Her next goal or aspiration would be to get in to the National School of Racing - British Cycling, which is based in Manchester.”