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Olympic Day

• Valencia grad earns trip to upcoming Beijing Olympics

Posted: June 24, 2008 1:24 a.m.
Updated: August 25, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Mike Day, a graduate of Valencia High School earned a trip to the Beijing Olympics in August as a member of the first-time Olympic sport of BMX Racing.

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Growing up riding a bike in Santa Clarita, the thought of participating in the Olympics never even crossed Mike Day's mind.

He just wanted to ride.

"When I was younger I just loved my bike," Day said in a phone interview from Santa Monica where he was doing promotional work with Red Bull. "After I got back from school, I'd drop my backpack and go ride."

In August, the Valencia High School alum will take off his backpack and ride in the 2008 Olympics in China as one of three members of the US men's BMX team, participating in a sport that is making its Olympic debut.

With Kyle Bennett guaranteed a spot on the team because he won USA Cycling's Olympic points competition and Donny Robinson, the No.1 ranked BMX racer in the world all but assured a position, the pressure was on Day to win the BMX trials or spend the summer back in the SCV.

As the USA Today headline read on June 14, it was "Mike's Day." The 23-year-old won three of four heats and finished second in the other one, squashing the competition and earning a trip to Beijing.

"The (trials) went perfect, I couldn't have asked for a better day," Day said.

For the next week, Day's schedule was overwhelming. Unlike usual, he wasn't in the driver's seat.

He went to a bike shop in Northern California, taught a clinic in Monterey, and did a bunch of appearances and interviews. Plus his phone would have been off the hook, had it not been a cell phone.

"Everyone has emailed me, every high school friend, BMX friend, I just got a call from everyone, like 40 voice mail messages and 100 text messages," Day said.

While he couldn't control the whirlwind that followed, one that he called fun, Day was the manager of his preparation for the trials. Instead of going to the BMX World Championships, which were also held in China two weeks before the trials, Day spent the time practicing at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, where he's lived and trained since January.

By the time the trials arrived, Day had studied every crook and cranny of the track, a replica of the Olympic track, complete with a 35-foot high starting ramp, one of the tallest in the world. He studied video, went though the jumps and turns over and over, and analyzed every scenario until he could do the race in his mind.

"I just figured it would better for me to be able train and practice and not have to get on a plane and race and then come home," Day said.

The plan worked as Day dominated the field on a track that he said fits his technically superb style.

That style was once honed on the track next to the old Bowman High School where he chased down his older brother Dave.

On his ninth birthday, Day's dad Steve, who works in an office for a construction company, took him to the track and bought him his first bike. Steve made sure that whenever Dave went, he'd take his little brother along. Soon, it was Dave that was chasing Mike, who couldn't be dragged off the track.

"I got hooked," Day said.

He raced locally until he turned 17 and then turned pro, while still in high school. Since then he's been all over the world from Europe to South America to Australia.

"It's crazy how far this bike has taken me," Day said.

Day is afraid that there might not be anyone from the SCV to follow him and he wants to make sure that doesn't happen. When he comes back to Saugus, where lives, he rides in Simi Valley.

The track next to Bowman, where the 9-year old Day started is gone.

"A lot of local kids are thinking about quitting because there's no track," Day said.

When he's done with the Olympics and his schedule allows for some downtime, Day said he wants to help build a track at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex where discussions regarding the subject are ongoing.

"I'd love to somehow get involved there," he said.

In the meantime, he's focused on his training until August 13 when he'll take his bike to Beijing.

"I'm just going to let it out there when I go," he said.

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