Local young athlete pedaling full speed ahead after World Championship competition

Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 6:08 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - At the starting ramp, 9-year-old Malia Alvarez balances atop her lightweight bike, eyes focus straight ahead.

The ramp, a carbon copy of the ones used in official competition, starts it’s countdown asking riders to get ready. A piece of the metal ramp sits upright, keeping racers from false starts.

The trick is to listen for the hiss of the hydraulic as the air gets let out and the metal piece falls back into the ramp. Almost simultaneously a beep signaling the start of the race sounds off.

Alvarez is 50 feet down the alley in the blink of an eye. The practice is ramp is set up just outside her family’s house in Bloomington.

A few short days prior, Alvarez was in the same position, but thousands of miles away in Nantes, France, for the BMX biking world championships.

Taking the world stage is the most recent step in her three-year journey behind the handlebars. It all began when she discovered an article about her mother’s racing career.

Sullivan said she began racing around the same age. She’s proud of how her daughter’s career has modeled her own.

“My first race was in France at 9 years old,” Sullivan said. “Her first race was in France and she was 9 years old.”

BMX biking is a “self-driven” sport, according to Sullivan. It’s a single rider on a pedal bike, riding as fast as they can and overcoming hills and obstacles. Sullivan said her daughter is a fierce competitor, and her determination is unlike anything else she’s seen. She used that drive to overcome obstacles both on and off the racing track.

The family’s trip to France was upended by Alvarez losing her competition bike on the flight from the states to Europe. They still hadn’t gotten that original competition bike back, according to Sullivan. It seemed like Alvarez’s chance to compete was over before it even began.

She rides a specialty lightweight bike, with uniquely thin tires for her age bracket. It wouldn’t be as simple as buying a ten-speed bike at a local big box store. Hope was renewed, however, when a family in Great Britain allowed Alvarez to borrow one of their competition bikes.

Alvarez said she was nervous at the start of the competition. Her nerves were matched with excitement as she realized she could take home an international trophy. As the races continued and the field of competitors narrowed down, her excitement and nerves only grew.

Eventually, Alvarez was at the starting ramp with seven other worldwide competitors. This was the final run. At the start, Alvarez pulled ahead to lead the pack of racers. A small mistake on the first turn caused her to lose her ground and finish in 5th place. Alvarez is 5th in BMX biking in the entire world for her age bracket, but she wasn’t thrilled with result.

She described her placement as “heartbreaking,” due to her strong start. Her mother said it almost breaks her heart to see her daughter upset about her performance, but attributes it to her strong determination as an athlete.

Alvarez is already looking ahead to her next competitions. Soon after landing back in the United States, she and her mom traveled to Wisconsin for another race. Alvarez has her eyes on the Grand National competition next.

“Don’t give up, no matter what,” Alvarez said.

Her performance in France also pre-qualifies her for next year’s competition in Glasglow, Scotland. She is more than ready to keep moving forward.

“It’s amazing to watch her drive and motivation get her what she wants,” Sullivan said. “She will strive at anything she does.”

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