Alise Willoughby prepares for start of delayed Tokyo Olympic Games

Alise Willoughby
BMX rider Alise Willoughby poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot in West Hollywood, Calif.
Harry How | Getty Images

The Summer Olympic Games, though delayed a year because of COVID-19, are right around the corner. Athletes across the country are preparing to head to Tokyo. One that has ties to Minnesota is BMX racer Alise Willoughby from St. Cloud, Minn.

Willoughby is preparing for her third Olympic games, after receiving silver in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. She’s also won two golds, a silver and two bronze medals at the World Championships, and in 2006 was named the first woman ever voted “Rookie Pro of the Year” by BMXer Magazine.

She spoke with MPR News host Tom Crann on the growth in BMX popularity and how the delay of the Olympics added to her preparation for the competition.

An edited transcript of the interview follows below. Listen to the full conversation by using the audio player above.

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BMX cycling has seen a resurgence of popularity in the last few years. But for people who may only know the name and don't know the sport, what can we expect?

BMX racing is fast-paced, action-packed, exciting stuff. Bicycle motocross is what it stands for. And you know, within cycling, it's one of the sprint races and solid dirt tracks.

Like you said, there has been a resurgence even over the past year with how many more people have taken back to bikes and you know, riding the tracks, and my dad runs a local track and St. Cloud that I grew up riding and you know, kids from one to two years old all the way up through 70 are riding bikes.

You've competed twice before. But I'm curious about your thoughts for this unusual Olympics. It's been delayed a year. I'm wondering how it is different? And has that year been beneficial?

For me, personally, it's been a beneficial year in that I had my 30th birthday in January, and I feel wiser and stronger. We use the whole year, my husband's now coaching me.

So we really made the most of the year and tried to prepare in ways that maybe we don't always get access to when we are training and competing and traveling all over the world. So hopefully, we're better for it.

A lot has happened since the 2016 Olympics. You took home silver from Rio, and since then your husband was injured in a training run and paralyzed. You've been working with him on his rehabilitation, and he's been working to coach you. Now you've gone through COVID and a delayed Olympics. How has these last few years been?

You know, it's these trials for anyone are facing adversity to kind of make that Olympic spirit. Well, it's no Olympic journey goes without it. And, you know, for me, I love what I do. And it keeps bringing me back for more.

We're just kind of looking at this as we finally got our we got our four-year cycle right together and working together. Because we kind of lost the whole year there with his rehab and everything is so yeah, now we've really truly been working together for those four years and learned a lot on his end and my end and grown

Like I said, we're better for it. And I think we're stronger and more motivated. And you know, when lose or draw, the result doesn't define either of us. We've had success in the sport. We want more.