Olympic BMX bronze medallist Declan Brooks jumped at the chance to swap Cirque du Soleil for success at the five-ring circus.
The 27-year-old toured around the US in 2017 as a two-wheeled trickster with the world’s most famous circus company.
He only returned to competitive action the following year, going on to win freestyle bronze on debut in Tokyo.
Brooks’ daring performances on stage and in subsequent advertising campaigns were a far cry from life in the high performance system and Brooks would not change it for the world.
“It’s completely different.” he said. “You don’t get the competition stress that you would at a contest but that’s why we compete, that’s why we want to turn up and be the best every time.
“I’ve done shows for Cirque du Soleil and it’s not the same feeling as competing, you’re doing the same thing every night – for us it gets a little bit boring.
“That’s why I eventually came back to competitions and when the Olympics came around, I knew that was something that I wanted to do straight away.
“Before the Olympics there were so many different avenues to BMX and back then we did do a lot of appearances in films and adverts.
“Cadbury was an online promotion and then we did Mary Poppins for a few months, which was pretty cool, and a couple of Bollywood films, so you could say we’ve been about a bit.
“Now I just want to ride for as long as possible.”
Brooks, who started skating at Southsea skate park near Portsmouth, is now firmly focused on qualifying for a second Games at Paris 2024.
Brooks was a pioneer of British Cycling’s BMX programme but now has Kieran Reilly for company.
Reilly will be one of the favourites for Olympic gold next summer after being crowned world champion in Glasgow in July, qualifying Team GB a Games place in the process.
With Reilly’s selection all but assured, Brooks will have to win a second quota place through the Olympic Qualifying Series in May and June to stand a chance of joining him.
“Being part of Team GB is such a different beast altogether and it’s so cool to be in with lots of different athletes at a multi-games event,” he said.
“To get us both to Paris next year is the ultimate goal.
“Kieran and I train together every day, so we always see each other riding and see what we’re doing tricks wise.
“We ride very differently, Kieran does a lot of the bigger tricks, a lot more tail whips, bar spins and the bigger combination tricks whereas I tend to do bigger double flips and spins and try and get a bit more creative on the course.
“It’s always hard to judge that and put a score to a line on a course but that’s the way I like to ride and that’s what I enjoy.
“For the next year it’s more about supporting each other to get to where we want to go to and then we’ll both end up at the Olympics if all goes well.”
Brooks and Tokyo Olympic champion Charlotte Worthington were the trailblazers but there is now a huge groundswell of freestyle talent on these shores – including 21-year-old Jude Jones and teenager Sasha Pardoe.
“The Olympics made BMX a lot more credible and it’s now a real sport,” said Brooks. “It’s nice to see something you’ve put so much work into get that credibility having not been respect.
“I try to inspire kids to be better and take up BMX. We always get a great response when we let them hold our Olympic medals and hopefully we can inspire people out there to follow their passion.”
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