The road to gold of Niek Kimmann
World champion BMX at the age of 19
In 2015, Niek Kimmann surprised friends and family alike when he won the world cup BMX as a first year senior @Papendal. Some say it is a lucky shot. Others say it is his home track. Two months later, he proved the opposite when he grabbed the world title on a rainy track in the Belgian city of Zolder. He was only 19 years old then.
Niek was seven when a friend asked him to join him to the local BMX club. He fell for the sport immediately. He likes the speed, the spectacle. The adrenaline running through your body when you are on top of the starting hill. Niek was not an instant super talent. He came in thirteenth at his first match. Of the thirteen. Though, he learned quickly and decided that he wanted to become a professional BMX cyclist. The backyard of the farm in Lutten was soon turned into a BMX track. His younger brother Justin also got infected with the BMX virus. Together, they started with shovels and wheelbarrows. Eventually, heavy-duty tools were used to build a nice track. Where the two brothers would spend hours together.
KNWU Talent Team
As Niek grew older and participated in more matches, he turned out to be talented. First, he dreamt of the Dutch top, later, the European top proved to be feasible as well. In 2011, the KNWU took him on in the BMX Talent Team. In 2012, he started living, training and studying full-time @Papendal. Niek was 15 years old when he left his parents and brother behind to go to Papendal. His parents stood behind him all that time, even though it was hard for them to see their son left home at such a young age. His brother Justin did not like having to miss his brother either. But once @Papendal, Niek made huge steps forward. He learnt what it means to perform elite sports. What it takes to be a professional. Which aspects are important. Physically, mentally, technically. He trained with the national team regularly and saw his examples at work there. A good motivation.
In 2013, he was added to the national selection directed by national coach Bas de Bever. Bas saw Niek’s talent as well. And he was right. Turned out in 2014 when he became double world champion in Ahoy Rotterdam. Gold on both the time trial and the race. Later that year, he achieved bronze during the Youth Olympic Games.
But then the big transition followed. From junior to elite. Juniors usually need a few years to grow into elite level.
World Cup Papendal
It was 10 May 2015. The annual BMX World Cup took place @Papendal. Niek would compete against the elite cyclists. He felt good. Home on this track, which he knew so well. And he cycled solidly. So solid that he qualified for the finals effortlessly. And then he could choose his starting position. He surprised everyone with his choice for track 8. All day, he cycled well on track 8. However, this is a difficult position, because you drive on the outside of the track. A solid first part is thus important to enter the turn. And it just so happens that this is Niek’s strength. He can accelerate like no other. He was leading with another BMX cyclist at the start of the first turn. Then he passed the other cyclist and did not give away the leading position anymore. Niek won his first World Cup.
The BMX world is surprised. Niek was not considered a potential winner beforehand. Suddenly, he was in the spotlight. People called it a lucky shot. Or said he was in favour, because it was his home track. He proved the opposite a few months later during the World Championship in the city of Zolder.
Niek showed he was in shape during his first time trail on his first day of the World Championship in Zolder. He achieved silver and fell short just a few hundredths for gold. The race was planned the following day. The circumstances were tough. It was raining. The races were postponed at first and ridden in a shortened schedule later. With less time in between to recover. But the Dutch performed well miraculously. For years, a spell seemed to be resting on the World Cup. Though the Dutch BMX cyclists continuously performed well on World Cups, it did not seem to come out during World Championships. But there are no less than three Dutch BMX cyclists lined up at the finals in Zolder. One of them was Niek. After a decent start and a good first part, he was second to enter the turn. Halfway through the race, he managed to take over the lead position. And again, he was not going to lose it. He was the first to cross the finish line and wrote history. Never before did a BMX cyclist manage to become world champion in his first year with the elite cyclists. An incredible achievement.
In the mean time, Niek’s brother Justin has also been living @Papendal for a few years now. Starting 2017, he will also be an elite cyclist. So the brothers will compete against each other. Experts consider Justin an even greater talent. That is promising! No doubt we will hear much from the brothers Kimmann.