By Marcus Uhe
Eight-year-old Kora Stephens has the world of BMX riding at her pedals, having qualified for the 2024 BMX World Championships in the United States next year.
The Officer youngster won both the 8 Girls 20” and 8-10 Girls Cruiser categories at the Victorian Championships in September, before backing up her success by winning the 8 Girls final at the National Championships in Shepparton earlier this month, franking her credentials as one of the fastest riders in the country for her age group.
“When I crossed the finish line it was a relief,” Stephens said, reflecting on her narrow win at the National Championships.
“I was doing all that hard training and I finally made it and got the reward.
“It was really fun to see everyone from around Australia and make some friends.”
Rock Hill in South Carolina, an Olympic-calibre BMX training facility, awaits for Stephens in May next year where she has qualified to represent Australia on the global stage.
From early apprehension on the bike, the help and support of her siblings and cousins helped fuel her competitive fire and pushed her to where she is today.
“I didn’t know how to jump and couldn’t get up one little jump,” Stephens said of her first ride.
“It was scary.
“I trained with my cousins and my brother and I kept training and thought, ‘wow, this is very easy now.’”
Stephens practices at the Casey BMX track and is a member of the Frankston Sharks BMX club, having first ridden in the United States while her and her family lived there in 2020.
After just a few short years, the fiercely competitive rider now eats, lives and breathes the sport, training five times a week after school and maintaining a fierce familiar rivalry with her cousins and older brother Max in the process, as key influences in her cycling journey to stardom to date.
Stephens’ father, Joshua, admitted the chaotic nature of the sport makes watching as a parent, at times, difficult, but is immensely proud of what his children have achieved on the bike.
“Both kids train ridiculous amounts, they give up a lot of free time,” he said.
“They come home from school and they’re on their bikes rather than being in front of the TV or electronics.
“They give up a lot of their time to train and they’ve put in the effort.
“To have this reward coming for Kora has been amazing.”
While BMX’s place in the Olympics Games is still relatively new, having only been included in 2008, Stephens’ age means she doesn’t know a world where it wasn’t part of sport’s traditional pinnacle.
She’ll be 17 when the Games come to Brisbane in 2032 where she’ll look to emulate her idols such as Australian BMX World Cup winner Saya Sakakibara, who attended the Tokyo games when she was just 21.
Dreams of wearing the green and gold in Queensland, as she currently does as National Champion, will continue until the day eventually comes.
Until then, her wholesome approach to the sport and competition will ensure her passion remains.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll make it to the Olympics,” she said.
“I love getting new friends, travelling, getting on flights and see new friends around the world and Australia and Victoria.
“Every girl that goes there (World Championships) has a chance of making first place so we’ll see what happens on the day.”