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Olympics give bandits a boost

Date

David Polkinghorne

Riders jump from the starting gates during the ACT BMX Championships at the Canberra BMX Club in Melba. Click for more photos

ACT BMX Championships

Action from the ACT BMX Championships at Melba BMX track. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

She may not have won the Olympic gold medal she desperately wanted, but Caroline Buchanan has inspired a new generation of BMX bandits in the ACT.

The ACT BMX championships were held at Melba on Sunday and ACT BMX secretary Damion Drain said there were more than 350 entries, with riders coming from all around Australia and ranging from three years up to the over 50s.

He said the popularity of the sport in Canberra was exploding and put it down to the profile of Australia's queen of the track.

''I think [Buchanan has] played a big part [in the sport's popularity],'' Drain told The Canberra Times. ''Caroline's looked up to by all the riders, particularly the young riders, she's a massive inspiration to them.''

The event was meant to be held earlier in the year, but had to be rescheduled after torrential rain forced its cancellation.

While numbers were down on previous years, Drain said it was because of the event's rescheduling to the lead-up to Christmas.

But it still attracted professional riders such as Alex Cameron and Luke Madill, as well as plenty of sprockets (under-sevens).

On the comeback from a broken arm, Canberra's rising star Harriet Burbidge-Smith finished second in the AA women class, the top level, while Thomas Hubert and Leanna Curtis took out the AA titles in the men's and women's respectively.

There was music blaring throughout the two days, with practice starting at 8am on Saturday and the competition winding up at 2pm on Sunday. Drain said the action-packed nature of the sport was another reason for its popularity.

''One of the biggest attractions about the sport is the fast pace, you get to see results quickly and it's very attractive to young kids today,'' he said. ''In Canberra the sport just seems to be growing and growing.''

Buchanan is taking a break from the sport and has returned to mountain biking, where she is a former world champion.

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