At the top of the ramp, before starting, Daniel Dhers goes over the pirouettes with which he is going to surprise in Tokyo with his arms, as if he were speaking to himself. The camera focuses on him as has happened since the Olympics began, where he has stood out as one of the most charismatic athletes. At the end of the round, again before the camera, he tilts his head, smiles and points to the flag of Venezuela and the skyline from Caracas that he wears on his helmet. With that joy and more than a decade of professional career in this unconventional sport, in which he has become a legend, he obtained the 92.03 points that gave his country the third silver medal and the first Latin American Olympic medal for the debutant freestyle BMX.
That smiling photo has rolled through the networks – quickly turned into a Venezuelan meme – since it arrived at the Olympic village a week ago. The cyclist has told through his Instagram all the details of his stay in Japan and his way there. There are videos at the airport, from his room assembling the tricolor bicycle in slippers, during the covid-19 test. In one of his broadcasts, he jokes out loud about the paradox that his partner Edy Álvarez lived through that, coming from the dangerous Catia, was never stolen there, but in Tokyo someone took his bicycle while they had breakfast at the Olympic Village. Even the official account in Spanish of the Olympic Games has been infected with the good vibes of the cyclist. When he finished his presentation they tweeted: “This was controlled.”
Dhers has endeavored to give illusion to Venezuelans, mired in the most serious economic, political and social crisis. “I know what this means for Venezuela,” he said in a video that he uploaded to his social networks, with his inevitable smile, minutes after the end of the test. “My country has been in conflict for 20 years. This practically gave a moment of silence in Venezuela and of healing. Everyone wants all athletes in Venezuela, regardless of political inclination, to bring medals to the country, “he later told the press. With four medals won by athletes who have carved out their careers on their own, this participation has been historic for the South American country even with the smallest delegation in the last 20 years.
In the Ariake Urban Park, the five-time X Games champion and 2019 Pan American gold medalist, has also made history. In addition to the competition, in which the Australian Logan Martin was the champion and the British Declan Bruce, in third place, the man from Caracas has also pedaled the path that has led this street sport to the Olympic Games. The 36-year-old cyclist was the oldest of all those who competed in this discipline and among his rivals there are friends he has trained, such as Kenneth Tencio, the Costa Rican who came in fourth place and who showed in Tokyo some of the stunts that Dhers taught him to do.
The silver medalists, the American Hanna Roberts, and the bronze, the Swiss Nikita Ducarroz, have also passed through the Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex, which opened in 2013 in the American city Raleight, North Carolina. The athlete built this park to continue his training, but there he also rents the spaces and teaches other cyclists. For the eight who made it into the final round with him, Sunday’s feat included competing with a legend they have followed. “I am the rider older here by like 10 years and ended up on the olympic podium. I didn’t think i was going [a lograr] come to the Olympics ”, he commented excitedly.
When the inclusion of freestyle BMX in Olympic sports was announced, Dhers was about to retire. He bet on trying and now he has said that he has gasoline left to get to Paris in 2024. Dhers gave his first shots in Caracas, where he was born on March 24, 1985. On broken sidewalks, railings, benches of squares and access stairs to the Metro he formed a generation of skaters and riders who were not considered athletes, but a danger, transgressors of public space, in a country devoted to baseball. There were no parks or ramps for them in Caracas then. At the age of 16, Dhers emigrated to Argentina, where the sport was more professionalized, then settled in the United States. Today there are at least four parks for these disciplines in the capital. Just four months ago Dhers was in Caracas on one of his frequent visits to the country, in which he exhibits his pirouettes and visits communities to encourage children to play sports. He said that he will visit Venezuela again soon. The Olympic medal ensures a succession of followers to the legend of the freestyle BMX.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.