By LACY LUSK
These aren’t the Ancient Greeks’ Olympics anymore, that’s for sure. A perfect example of the changing sports world has to be BMX, which makes its way back to Woodbridge for a national event next weekend.
The BMX (bicycle motocross) facility behind Pfitzner Stadium will play host to the third annual Freedom National on Saturday and Sunday. A crop of 800-1,000 riders – from the smallest amateurs to some of the brightest 2008 Olympic hopefuls – begin practice Friday at 2 p.m. Racing starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday.
The event ranks as one of the most important amateur qualifiers in the sport, but it pales in comparison to the historic competitions that will be held in 2008 in Beijing, China.
In Prague, Czech Republic, on June 29, the International Olympic Committee approved the addition of a BMX race for elite men (19 and over) and one for elite women (19 and over). One BMX driver who still hopes to be in the mix for the Beijing Games is 1996 Woodbridge High School graduate Robbie Miranda.
Miranda will not participate in this weekend’s competition in his hometown, as the race does not count toward professional points standings, but he did put on a clinic at the track earlier this summer.
Track director Paul Kincheloe said professional BMX racer Lance McGuire will give a clinic on Friday and participate in races this weekend. According to Jane O’Leary, head of the local parents’ association, about $25,000 will be awarded in prize money – $10,000 to individuals and the rest to national teams.
”Two weeks after our race are the grands [national championships] in Louisville, but we’ll still have some pros,” said Kincheloe, a Woodbridge resident who served as assistant track director for the past two years.
In BMX, riders on small stunt bikes negotiate a dirt-track course with jumps and turns. The two BMX Olympic events will replace two traditional cycling events in 2008, and the number of invited MBX athletes has yet to be determined. The switch comes as part of the Games’ attempt to appeal to younger fans. Since 1990, the Summer and Winter Olympics have added sports such as freestyle skiing, snowboarding, triathlon and taekwondo.
At the Freedom National, the hundreds of riders will represent many age groups and hometowns.
”It’s for men, women, 5-year-old girls, 50-year-old moms, you name it,” Kincheloe said. ”From 5-and-under to 55-and-over, there will be all kinds of stuff going on for all shapes and sizes.”
This weekend, the races are free to the public and about 3,000 family and fans are expected to watch. A parking fee of $5 is good for the entire weekend.
The track also will play host to a state-championship event Sept. 27-28, with more than 250 racers expected.
In the shadows of the BMX track – and at other fields in the county – the International Senior Softball Association World Championships will be played on the same three days.
Play begins at 8 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the ninth annual event. Games will be held at the Prince William Stadium Complex, Valley View Park and Fairmont Park.
Among the registered local teams are Dale City’s All Star Sports (50+ AA); Manassas’ Thomas Engineering (60+ Majors); Nokesville’s Thomas Engineering (50+ Majors); and Woodbridge’s Gents (50+ AA).
For more information on the tournament, go to www.seniorsoftball.org.