Guest post from Tre Whyte, former Olympic BMX Athlete
I started BMX racing at the age of 9. From that exact moment I knew this was going to be an important part of my life. BMX had a ripple effect on my whole family as soon as I started. My older and younger brother, my dad and then even my younger sisters gave it a good go too. We made a big impact on the BMX scene, especially as it was predominately a white sport at the time. We had to face stereotypes and judgmental people, but we let our riding do the talking and before you knew it, as a family and along with the club we racked up multiple titles.
Moving forward at the age of 18 I was selected to be in Team GB for 2011. This was a dream becoming a reality. I wanted to leave London and do what I loved, so I couldn’t wait to train and race alongside my teammates and competitors.
I was involved with the British Cycling senior team for just under 3 Olympic cycles, and was sent to London 2012 on an ambition programme to get a bit of experience in how the Games works for an athlete, how the games are formatted and more. At the games I was confident enough to tell my coach that within 2 years I will make a World Final. He told me,
‘Double or nothing, you need to get on the podium.’
Lo and behold, 2 years later in 2014 after not getting funded by the squad, I came away from Rotterdam with a Bronze medal. This was a big deal as it was within the two year Olympic qualification and was the breakthrough I needed. After that event I started to perform at the level I knew I was capable of.
The 2016 Olympic selection process came with a lot of politics and drama, which affected my career and to a degree even put me off cycling. I didn’t feel happy riding within the organisation until a change came about. Heading into 2020 I believed this was my last chance to make it to the Olympics. I put a lot of pressure on myself, perhaps too much, and this was reflected in my racing. I was underperforming and crashing out quite a lot, and was on the brink of quitting.
I decided to take myself out of the environment I was in for the last 8 years and go back to basics. After speaking with my coaches I had a lot more input in my own programme and I went to stay with my old coach and mentor Ck Flash. I focused on the fundamentals and learnt about myself, it brought the fun back into cycling and gave me some confidence.
The first race of the year was a bit of a shock as although I felt great physically, mentally I wasn’t dialled in. In high level sports, especially in BMX racing, mentality is one of the biggest factors. On reflection, maybe I learnt that way too late. With all the fires in Australia, COVID-19 and a horrific incident from a fellow racer, the second weekend of racing was cancelled after Moto 1 which I took a tumble in, and that was the end of the Australian trip. I understood I didn’t perform at the level I wanted to, but I knew what I was capable of and brought it back to Manchester.
As a team we knew we were competing for two Olympic spots: my younger brother Kye had the first spot pretty much locked in and for the rest of us it was going to be down to the final races before the games. In Manchester a couple weeks after Australia we hosted a race which attracted riders from all over. I hit my personal best times, which happened to be the fastest of the weekend! I finished second on Day 2 behind my brother. This was a huge achievement for me. I remembered what it was like to enjoy racing, get on the gate with such confidence and be excited to race. I couldn’t wait for the next event…
That’s when the world was hit by COVID-19. All races were cancelled, we were only able to send one person to the Olympics.
That wasn’t going to be me. British Cycling terminated my contract in June 2020. I had no idea what my next move was.
Applying for jobs with no work experience is hard enough, but getting a job during a global pandemic felt impossible. Gutted was an understatement. I was in the best shape of my life and I couldn’t get out and reap the rewards. I used COVID-19 as the time to take a break but it also took me to a dark place. I felt like I had no purpose. I put a lot of pressure on myself because of my age and expectations. Luckily I was open and was able to talk to close friends and family which helped me realise the place I was in, but I soon learnt that it was only me that can make a change and move forward.
Although it has been a very hard pill to swallow within the past year, I have been on a journey to find and understand what I really want to do in life. Honestly? I’m still not sure. LAPS really helped me by giving me the opportunity to do some part-time work, and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust took me on board, where I am currently completing a course in coaching and mentoring.
Through networking, teaching myself to try and look at the positives in life and with the help of family and friends, it has opened doors for me to work with new people, learn new skills and have a new outlook on life. So I can start to plan my future and find my next challenge.
I am now currently living back in London doing some work with the young kids at my BMX club. I am starting a new job next week, which also involves cycling, giving back and helping the community so although things aren’t exactly how I wanted them to be, I understand that some things you can’t control and we need to make the most of every situation.
This has taught me me that there is a life outside of sport and in my case cycling, and how to put my energy and determination into something else. I am always looking for new opportunities to better myself and I believe that this is just the beginning.
You can connect with Tre here:
Instagram – @78whyte
Twitter – @TreWhyte
LAPS Members can discuss Tre’s post on our Community page.