BMX Mania Co-Sponsors

Siblings peddle biking as winning family activity

Thursday, December 23, 2010
BY AMY SAUNDERS - The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch
BMX riders might evoke thoughts of extreme daredevils, as seen in the spectacular crashes of the X Games.

The competitors planning to race next week on a dirt track at the Greater Columbus Convention Center are certainly daring, but many also fall under a less extreme demographic: families.

"It's a sport the whole family can get involved with," said Jess Moore, spokesman for the National Bicycle League of Gahanna, which will conduct two events expected to draw 1,500 riders from throughout the United States.

"It's pretty easy to tell once you get here," he said. "It's really just families riding their bikes all over the place."

A case in point: The Takamasa family of Dublin - brothers Naoki, 14; Koh, 10; sisters Erika, 12; and Megumi, 7 - travels the country for contests at least once a month.

Emi, the youngest child, could start racing next year at 5 - the age at which each of her siblings began competing.

Intrigued by the sport during his childhood in Japan, the father, Naoya, initially encouraged his older son to try it as a path to fitness.

Naoki found that he loved the pursuit - while his parents appreciated the laid-back atmosphere of competitions, meeting other families and sharing stories and barbecues.

Almost a decade later, the children all have top rankings in Ohio. And they have earned about 300 trophies, more than their home could handle.

At the national level, Erika is ranked third in her division, while Naoki is 18th.

"It gives you a sense of accomplishment," Erika said. "You get to choose your goals, and, when you do accomplish them, it builds your self-esteem."

Headed into their upcoming races, the Takamasas have a bit of a disadvantage compared with their rivals from warm-weather states.

With the closest indoor venue in Dayton, for example, they haven't practiced since Thanksgiving.

They'll hit the track Monday to represent Ohio in the President's Cup, a state-vs.-state competition.

Then, the next two days, they'll compete in the Christmas Classic, kicking off a new season of national races. With the children jumping dirt hills, the sport poses dangers: Naoki broke both arms at 8 while at a BMX camp.

"I went over the handlebars and put my hands out," he said, "and they kind of snapped."

Before races, Naoya signals his children to use their heads.

Their mother, Maria, says a silent prayer - aware that the sport involves risks.

"You have to be brave enough to try things, take some chances, or you're not going to improve their skills," she said.

Although the mother isn't interested in competing, the father tried two years ago - and retired after his first event.

"I was going to try and make a cool move," he said, "but I fell and broke my wrist. "It still hurts to this day."

The NBL President's Cup & Christmas Classic went well for the BMX Mania Factory riders.

Lots of action and motos were up from last year. Holy moley, 12 hours plus.

The Family's home state of Ohio took a close 2nd place in the State Vs. State battle, with Florida in 1st. Just 5pts diff.

Naoki was perfect until the main. He had to fight thru quarters and semis too. Getting a bad gate, he worked the track and came back from 6th to take 3rd.

Erika took perfect all weekend long. This was her 4peat in Prez cup.

Koh ended up getting really sick before his semi finals at the President's Cup and didn't race the rest of the races.

Meg’s debut was awesome. She got 4th in Pres cup, and 8th and 5th in the Classic.