BMX freestyler Shanice Silva Cruz | EMOVES special

BMX freestyle will be a new discipline at the Olympic Games of 2020. And Shanice Silva Cruz will hopefully be the first female participant from the Netherlands. We meet with her in the 040 BMX Park to talk about her Olympic dream.

Shanice (25) has just ripped her pants during her morning training when she opens the door of the training hall at Strijp-S. This park has recently become the official training ground for Dutch BMX freestylers training for the Olympics. A team made up of four guys and Shanice. She gets up at half past five every morning to travel from Rotterdam to Eindhoven to train for the Olympics in Tokyo, for which only nine men and nine women can qualify. Will she be one of them?

Women in a BMX world

Shanice is world top for sure. She finished seventh in the World Championships last year, she tells us when she sits down at the table overlooking the ramps. But participating in the Games is not only about being talented and training very hard. It's also about travelling around the globe to compete in the qualifying matches. “About sixteen from November onwards.” Sixteen airline tickets with hotel accommodation. That’s a lot of money, that she doesn’t have at the moment.

BMX freestyle is not yet one of the ‘top sports’ as defined by the NOC-NSF. So even though it is an Olympic discipline, the Dutch participants do not receive an ‘A-status’ at the moment. That means no financial compensation. For the men, this is often solved with sponsorship contracts, for example with Red Bull, GoPro or Oakley. For women, this is not yet the case.

“For me, the struggle is never between me and the opponent, but between me and my head.”

Shanice Silva Cruz

International training facilities in Eindhoven

“That's a pity”, Shanice says. She looks remarkably relaxed and determined. This is what she wants and she is going to do everything she can in the coming period to fulfill her dreams. And so she travels to Eindhoven five times a week because at 040 BMX Park the ramps are high enough to train and prepare for international matches. And because of the ‘foam pit’, which allows her to safely learn new tricks. The 040 BMX Park in Eindhoven is one of the largest freestyle parks of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined.

Shanice was twelve when she first rode a BMX bike. She saw a friend of her brother riding and was immediately sold. Everyone told her BMX was not for girls. But Shanice was determined to learn how to ride. Her father finally allowed her to choose a bike, on the condition that 'she wouldn't use it to do any crazy tricks' (now everyone can see Shanice flying through the BMX park).

Ultimate highlights

Shanice is still eager to learn. She looks closely at how others do their tricks. She watches video footage of other professionals and compares that to her own technique to see where there is room for improvement. Learning a new trick often starts as soon as she lies in bed at night. "I imagine how to do it, how to use my arms and what to do with my legs. I can feel the whole movement.” In 2013, she became the first woman to land a front flip.

During EMOVES, the BMX world top will come to Eindhoven. Shanice explains that the ultimate highlights during the two minute runs are often in the small technical tricks. "Sometimes someone doesn't go very high or doesn't do the somersaults, but in a few seconds so many difficult things happen close to the ground. That’s really impressive to see.”

Respect for eachother 

And if someone succeeds in doing a crazy trick, she will always cheer. Also for the opponent. Once, a surprised TV reporter said to her: "You just applauded for your opponent!” "But BMX is quite a tough sport. Everyone is constantly doing dangerous stuff, that in itself creates a bond. I only respect someone who does something new, because I know how difficult it is.”

She laughs: "People never understand. But you have to see it like this: when two people go bungee jumping and one of them ends up not jumping, then you only have great respect for the one who did, don't you? For me, the struggle is never between me and the opponent, but between me and my head.”

Foto's by Bram Berkien.