Jamaican biker pedals towards Olympic dreams
It's only fitting that Maliek Byndloss will seek to earn qualifying points racing his bicycle at the Eden Park BMX track in St Mary on his road to representing Jamaica at the 2016 Olympics.
The 19-year-old, whose parents are Jamaican, will have to earn at least 10 Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) racing points to qualify for the upcoming Summer Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Byndloss starts his journey next month, and is expected to reach Jamaica in May, when he will race at the Eden Park BMX track, which was resurfaced by the Digicel Jamaica Foundation last year.
"I want to get Jamaica on the map for International BMX," said Byndloss, who was born in Florida, USA, where the BMXer currently lives.
The young rider has already made a name for himself in bicycle motocross racing. Byndloss is a two-time World Champion, seven-time USA Cycling Champ, seven-time National Champion, and possesses a first-time Amateur title, along with a first-time Rookie Pro of the Year award, more recently.
He finished the 2013 season as the UCI's No. 6 ranked junior rider in the world, and thereafter, switched his riding allegiance from the United States to Jamaica.
His extensive experience at 19 years of age is a result of him developing a love for the sport at the tender age of six, as well as the usual dose of perseverance unsually displayed by outstanding performers.
"My dad first took me to the track ,and I was falling off the bike and crashing on the track," he said. "I loved it from then, but never thought I'd become so dedicated to the sport. It definitely takes a lot of training as it is a sport where you have to push yourself."
For his mother, Stacy Byndloss, Maliek should focus on riding at his best rather than earning points.
"Maliek being one of the top BMX racers in the US and deciding to represent his heritage makes me so proud of him," said Stacy. "When he started racing, his progress was very fast. My husband, Rudy, and I realised how naturally talented he was and supported him with his love of the sport."
Maliek is open to sharing his love for the sport, taking part in biking clinics at the Eden Park track, training youngsters. The Olympic hopeful is a supporter of the Two Wheels, One Love initiative being launched at the resurfaced track on January 15, 2015.
The Eden Park BMX Track, the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, was completed in July 2012, and in 2014 was resurfaced by the Digicel Jamaica Foundation to make it on par with International standards. The track has become the focal point of the growing BMX racing scene in Jamaica.