Declan Brooks grew up in Portsmouth, UK. His Dad was into motorcycling but Dec had other ideas. He got his first BMX at 9 years old and started skipping football to ride his bike. From then on he spent every minute at the skate park. At 16 he thought that he could take BMX further and make it a career.
He worked as a plasterer on the side to get money to go to competitions. British Cycling came along and Dec became a full-time BMX Freestyle athlete with the goal to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. He was the first British athlete to get a medal in BMX Freestyle with a Bronze in 2021. Dec now has his sights set on the next Olympics, Paris 2024.
Tune in to find out how Dec got on Team GB, winning Bronze and the whole Olympic experience, his time working at Cirque du Soleil, events, training at Adrenaline Alley, injury & recovery and his goals for the future.
Oli Russell-Cowan: How has the recovery been?
Declan Brooks: Being at the top of BMX it’s such a gnarly sport. And if you’re not 100% It’s almost not worth doing it. It’s dangerous. So if I was to go and kind of do an 80%, I wouldn’t really be too into it. So I’m just gonna miss it out.
Oli Russell-Cowan: That’s not the first time you’ve been concussed. Right?
Declan Brooks: That’s been the worry this time, it’s kind of like every time before you bounce back. I’ve had 6 knockouts now over 10 years, which is quite a lot, really. It makes you sit back and think, how long have I got left and kind of puts some doubts in your mind. It did for the first couple of weeks. Then when I’m getting better, I want to get back on the bike again.
It’s definitely a worry. But I had an MRI and everything’s come up good. We’ve seen the right people, and we’ve done the right things. So now it’s just about getting the confidence back in and going with it again.
It wasn’t till about 9 that I had a BMX and I used to play football at the time. We used to go to these tournaments and I was spending more time on the BMX at these football tournaments than actually playing football.
I think it was at that point I was like come on, let’s just pack football in. I spent every minute at the skate park after that. It wasn’t really until I got to 16 leaving school that I thought maybe I can take this further and take it as an actual career.
I did that for a couple of years and I was also plastering as well with my dad just on the side to get money to go to competitions. Then at the perfect time, it all kind of fell into place for me, because British Cycling came along with the Olympic stuff. That allowed me to go full time with it and completely put all my energy into that.
That’s when I kind of just changed as a rider and just saw the benefits of being a full time athlete.
Oli Russell-Cowan: Were you against the Olympics when you first heard about the idea?
Declan Brooks: For me, not really. I always kind of wanted it. There were a lot of people, and they’re generally older, that kind of didn’t want it to go to the Olympics, because they thought it would change the sport. But it’s just opportunity.
You don’t know whether they kind of just saying that because they would have liked it 20 years ago. I think it’s maybe divided the sport up a little bit. In terms of you’ve got now ‘Olympic riders’, and then you’ve also got the normal BMX rider, that’s just a bit crazy.
It brings more opportunities for younger riders to take BMX full time. And that’s essentially it.
Oli Russell-Cowan: It gives opportunities from everything from making a living out of it, getting sponsors and so on.
Declan Brooks: Yes. The BMX industry is a small industry. It goes in cycles where it does really well and then it struggles. So if you’re kind of one of those riders that hasn’t got many sponsors, and you’re finding that hard. So you’ve got to work.
The Olympic teams kind of different. You don’t necessarily have to be cool to be on the team, you just have to get good results. So it’s all on you at that point. I always liked that aspect of it that if you don’t do well, then you’re not going to be off the team straightaway. You get a good while to prove yourself.
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