With the Summer Olympic Games recently ending, we asked #TeamEVS athlete Payton "P-Nut" Ridenour about her experience representing the United States as a member of Team USA BMX. At just 19 years old, the Pottstown, Pennsylvania native was the youngest member of the USA Olympic BMX team after turning pro at the start of the 2021 season.
Unfazed by having to race against more experienced competitors on such a focused world stage, Ridenour made the Olympic team in her first attempt after landing on the World Cup podium in Bogota, Colombia, in March to secure herself a spot on the team in Tokyo.
"Ever since I was little racing BMX, I had a goal to make the Olympic team, and when COVID happened, it gave me another year to prepare for the games," explained Ridenour. At first, making the team may have seemed like a bit of a longshot for her, but the extra time and training resulting from COVID allowed her to gain the experience needed to make the team.
"There was a one spot open. They take three girls for the team based on country rankings, so I went for it," explains Ridenour. "I was able to race the World Cup events in Italy and Colombia, and I made three out of my four World Cup mains, which is how you get points towards the Olympics. That was awesome because it helped me get on the team. Then in Colombia, I got my first ever World Cup podium which secured my spot for Tokyo."
"I didn't have another games experience to compare it to, but it was an honor. It was super fun — the whole experience in Tokyo," — Payton Ridenour
After learning she'd made the team, Ridenour got to work preparing for Tokyo by training with her personal coach for a few weeks in Virginia before heading to Chula Vista, California, where the track featured a replica of the start-straight that was to be part of the Tokyo Olympic track. Because the Olympic BMX track is significantly longer than any track they race on throughout the year, Ridenour could get in some practice on the longer track to better prepare. She also credits her coaches, family, and sponsors with helping her prepare mentally and physically in the short amount of time she had available by surrounding herself with like-minded people.
What was it like for Payton Ridenour to represent her country in an event as prestigious as the Olympics? Although she may have missed accomplishing her personal goals — by just missing out on making the quarter-finals — she was still beyond stoked to go there and represent her country. "I didn't have another games experience to compare it to, but it was an honor. It was super fun — the whole experience in Tokyo," said Ridenour.
But not only was it an honor and a fun experience representing her country in one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but it was also an incredible learning experience for future Olympic Games and a confidence boost for the rest of the season. If Payton Ridenour's steep learning curve is any indication of what's ahead, look for her to be running up front at World Cup BMX events across the globe and representing the USA again in another four years.
Payton Ridenour's EVS Choice:
Interview by Dale Spangler