Triple treat for Curtis as Juster re-joins the Olympic BMX race in earnest
Rio hopeful Leanna Curtis has capped off a brilliant week at the BMX Australia National Championships by winning the women’s Grands Challenge event, while Northern Territory rider Matthew Juster has re-joined the road to Rio by winning the men’s event in Bathurst, NSW.
The Grands Challenge saw the top eight riders in the 14-16 years, junior elite and elite classes race over three motos for a chance to win return economy flights to Tulsa, Oklahoma, accommodation for five nights and entry into the 2016 Race of Champions (ROC) and Grand Nationals events.
While the event had previously only been open to 16-years, junior elite and elite riders, the addition of the 14 and 15-years riders is a world first, and an initiative of BMX Australia to assist the development of younger riders on the athlete development pathway.
Although 10 riders booked their place to the world renowned event in the USA this afternoon, it was undoubtedly Curtis who would depart Bathurst with the largest spring in her step following a week where she won the Australian National Series, national title and Grands Challenge to firmly announce herself as a contender for the Australian Olympic team.
“It was really good to get three out of three wins this week, it’s a big confidence booster. I came into the week expecting to be among the top contenders, and winning all three races was the goal…I knew that I could do it,” Curtis said.
“After this week I am certainly thinking about Olympic selection. Mel (Melinda McLeod) is recognised as one of the athletes fighting for a place to Rio, so after beating her twice I am definitely hoping to get Olympic selection.
“Today’s win also means I go to the Grands Nationals. I’ve never been to a grands, everyone says it is a pretty crazy and different race, so I can’t wait to check it out!”
Following a week of podium results, the final day of competition saw Juster convert strong speed into victory. The tall Territorian said that his results throughout the championships have instilled confidence that his Rio Olympic dream is still alive.
“It’s so good to win the Grands Challenge, I am so thankful to BMX Australia for putting on this opportunity to race again. I’ve raced in America, but not the grands which is the biggest race on earth,” Juster said.
“I can look forward to the first world cup round in Argentina in a few weeks time now. After placing second in the National Series and receiving some prize money I can finally afford that trip, that will be crucial for me to earn some more UCI points and have a chance at Olympic selection.
“It’s been a weird week for me, I have been so relaxed coming into the racing and I am feeling really good. My gates and my starts have been good, it’s all coming together and a shot at the Aussie team is feeling more realistic.”
Also winning trips to the Grands Nationals event in the USA were Jye Hombsch and Saya Sakakibara in the junior elite men's and women’s classes, Nathaniel Rodway and Shelby Green in the 16-years boy’s and girl’s, Cooper Tye and Molly McGill in the 15-years boy’s and girl’s and Kai Angel and Des’Ree Barnes in the 14-years boy’s and girl’s events.