Chatting about the future of Flatland

BeatriceJanuary 18, 2021

In response to the recent news about Flatland and other cycling disciplines left out of the 2024 Olympics, we reached out to a few female flatlanders for their perspective on the decision, their hopes for 2021 and on.

Irina Sadovnik – Austria

With the recent inclusion of flatland in the UCI, are you surprised that flatland didn’t make the cut for the 2024 Olympics? Do you feel there is still some growth needed or would 2024 have been the best time for it?

I definitely hoped that flatland will be included in the 2024 Olympics but the decision that it’s not, didn’t surprise me.
It’s hard to answer the question if 2024 would have been the best time for it. Talking about flatland in general, I think we would be totally ready for the Olympics. The level of riding is really amazing, there are a lot of competitors. flatland gets more and more attention, and the atmosphere during contests is burning (which is I guess also an important factor when it comes to the Olympics).

As gender parity is a big topic for the Olympics 2024, which is amazing and definitely the right way, we might need to take a separate look at the woman’s class here. If that’s the reason/or part of their decision to not include flatland in the 2024 Olympics, I don’t know, but it is a fact that we need more girls participating in all the competitions. There are enough girls out there who ride really well and kick-ass, which was proven by the fact that many females (twice as much as in most live comps in 2019) entered all the online video contests in 2020 like E-FISE and the American Flatland Association (AFA) Contest.

At the Master of Creativity (MOC) Contest, there were even 26 riders in the girl’s class. What is really great to see is that there are so many young girls out there who are really motivated and learn so fast.

So I think that there is definitely a need to get more female riders into the competitions but I also think that with inclusion of flatland in the 2024 Olympics, the growth of the sport in general and also of the women class would have been guaranteed. With flatland getting included in the Olympics, I am also sure that federations or some sponsors would have/see more possibility to support us. I think flatland is beautiful as it is and we will see where this journey leads.

How have you been during this era of Covid, and how has it impacted your riding, training, competition, etc.

As I had knee surgery at the end of 2019, I wasn’t allowed to ride my BMX anyway for quite a time. I mainly focused on physical therapy during the first wave. As doing sport was always allowed during the lockdowns in Austria, I used the time to ride my MTB as much as I could to get some muscles back on my legs. When I was able to get back on my BMX, the situation in Austria was quite relaxed so I could ride whenever I want and how much my knee allowed me to. As I am riding on a public spot next to a museum, I also never had the problem where my spot was closed, as it would have been if I would ride on basketball courts or something else similar, as these spots were partially locked. So in 2019, my knee was a way more limiting factor than Covid was for me.

For sure I miss traveling to all the contests like in 2019 and I also miss seeing my BMX friends aaaaaa lot. But I am very happy that MOC, E-FISE, and AFA organized these beautiful video contests, which gave us the great opportunity to experience this kind of competition during this very weird year!

With Flatland not added to the 2024 Olympics, but there being a lot to look forward to in 2021, I would like to know what you’re looking forward to?

For sure, participating in the Olympics was a big dream and I am very sad that it didn’t work out for 2024 but this is not changing the fact that I will continue to ride my bike as much as I can, working on new tricks, my consistency level and enjoying every second on my bike with a big smile on my face. I really hope that in 2021, it will be easier again to travel and also that there will be some live contests and jams where we can all meet up again and have a great time on our bikes together. I miss this a lot and also my BMX friends for sure. So that is something I am really looking forward to.

Do you have any suggestions on how we can develop flatland more or how we can support as riders?

I wish I had an answer to this question. I am currently also collecting ideas and discussing with several people on how we could help push women in flatland, as there is definitely a need to grow the numbers of female participants at all contests out there. I think as riders, we could easily support each other by giving shout-outs on social media, sharing videos/photos, commenting on feeds, etc. This would already help a lot to promote flatland and in long term also help to develop it.

It might be also a good idea to organize more jams for ladies where we can all meet in an easy atmosphere where there is no contest pressure or something like that and where we can support each other and also learn from each other. It’s so important to stick together and embrace each other.  Another thing, which comes to my mind is to make an edit of female Park, Street and Flatland riders showing how much passion we all have for our sport and how much we support each other. It’s amazing to see how much the female park and street scene grew in the past years and I am sure flatland will also get there soon. So I guess making a video like that could also help us to get more attention and for sure would also motivate a lot of girls.

Paula Hesser – Canada

With the recent inclusion of Flatland in the UCI, are you surprised that Flatland didn’t make the cut for the 2024 Olympics? Do you feel there is still some growth needed or would 2024 have been the best time for it?

It doesn’t surprise me in the least. Flatland only joined the UCI in 2018, and the last comparable stage flatland had on a platform on would be the Xgames. But it was dropped in 2004. Flatland was dead. It really survived the next 15 years through rider organized comps, and events and all us hardcores out there hanging out in parking lots hours on end. To see flatland back on a stage such as FISE was a monumental step just two years ago, and now we’re talking Olympics? I’m stoked on the recognition flatland has seen in the past few years alone, it’s been really exciting. I’ve been part of this scene since 2003, and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to compete as a Pro, on a stage such as FISE. But it is possible to see flatland BMX in the Olympics. Maybe that’s where it belongs? But there is a lot of growth we need to see in flatland before it becomes mainstream, and the girl’s scene must expand to get it there. The only reason it’s gotten this far, IMO, is due to the hard work, dedication, commitment, and vision of just a handful of riders. These riders have also really, really pushed the envelope in style and what is possible on a BMX. In the process, they have elevated girls on that stage as well. I really want to offer my gratitude to them. I don’t know if they’ll ever know how much it means to me, as a woman and mother of two small girls. It seriously chokes me up.

How have you been during this era of Covid, and how has it impacted your riding, training, competition, etc.

2020 has been one of the best riding seasons for me in many years. Quarantine gave me 10 weeks off from my job, the weather was sorta brutal March and April, but I got an early start on my season. The weather held out until December! When the season is normally over before October ends. I managed to get 2 days of riding in a week, every so often 3, up until daylight savings time. So I had much more opportunity to ride this year than normal. The only issue I had was that the park was unusually busy since schools were closed March – September.

With Flatland not added to the 2024 Olympics, but there being a lot to look forward to in 2021, I would like to know what you’re looking forward to?

I don’t think we’ll be back to normal comps and events in ’21. I’m just looking forward to riding as much as I did in ’21 as I did this year, maybe even more 😊 I have a head full of ideas of new tricks I want to try. My eldest daughter will be 5 in a few weeks and I think it will be a big year for her on her bike and scooter. By the end of next year, I’m hoping to secure an indoor winter spot, which I haven’t had for many years. *I just read in your recent article that there will be Continental BMX Flatland Championships in 2021 which is SO exciting. So frustrating to not be able to ride right now! *

Do you have any suggestions on how we can develop flatland more or how we can support as riders?

I’ve been trying for the greater part of the past 10 years to attract more girls/women to flatland. I rack my brain regularly about this. My biggest concept, and influence, is the creation of Rad Girls BMX; annual edits featuring only female riders from all over the world. I thought the edits were a great idea because it’s inclusive and it focuses entirely on flatland. I wanted a sense of community with the girls that we would not have otherwise. There definitely has been no shortage of video clips of girls riding this year thanks to Masters of Creativity, FISE and the AFA comps. I went back and forth about whether to do an edit for 2020. My computer was running like a piece of junk and it could be frustrating to do simple tasks let alone editing. With everything else going on I didn’t know if I could fit the edit in, and I know we all spent the summer recording ourselves already! Lol But I have since replaced my computer and it just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t do it. So imma try to do it. I’m actually a fairly introverted person, but for many years I represented a gender (!!!) and I felt compelled to be a good ambassador for this sport that I am so passionate about. I traveled a few circuits and went to a lot of jams and contests around North America, and I tried to be visible. We need to be more visible.

But what I’ve experienced firsthand is that those in positions of authority and influence can do way more for girls in flatland, and the sport in general, then I could ever do with my resources and influence. I appeal to anyone, in any position, that can elevate girls up with sponsorships and opportunities to do so! But the biggest contributor to bringing up the next generation with girls are these BMX flatland schools. It’s just the best to see these grade school kids riding, having fun, and you just see the confidence in their faces. The schools seem like the best bet, but we won’t really know for sure how it turns out for another 5-10 years. If I had a chunk of change I’d love to open a school down here.

Céline Vaes – France

With the recent inclusion of Flatland in the UCI, are you surprised that Flatland didn’t make the cut for the 2024 Olympics? Do you feel there is still some growth needed or would 2024 have been the best time for it?

I am not really surprised or bummed to hear this news. I would have obviously loved to see flatland at Olympics in 2024 but we have to consider that flatland is part of the UCI circuit for just a few years and still needs to develop, especially on the woman aspect: we definitely need more girls to ride flatland.

How have you been during this era of Covid, and how has it impacted your riding, training, competition, etc.

As for pretty much, everyone has been a rough and scary time to go through. I was lucky enough to be able to ride 1 hour a day during the first lockdown (the government allowed 1 hour a day of physical exercise ) which was great to feel free and escaping from the confined house. In the meantime, it has been hard to ride always by myself, without being able to share anything with anyone.

With Flatland not added to the 2024 Olympics, but there being a lot to look forward to in 2021, I would like to know what you’re looking forward to?

I look forward to being able to travel again and meet friends at events, to see more and more girls who ride flatland either on events or on social networks. I hope that the overall level of riding will progress a lot too. I will try to help in that way by providing more tutorials on our youtube channels.

Do you have any suggestions on how we can develop flatland more or how we can support as riders?

This interview is a perfect example of how you can help us. Involving us in your channels is just great, thanks a lot for that. Please keep on sharing as much flatland as you can! It would be great to include flatland in more BMX or action sports events. It would be also great to include flatland in any BMX girls project: trip, shooting, video parts, documentary…

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