With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio just around the corner, Global News is talking to some of B.C.’s most prominent athletes on their way to Olympic glory. Today, we are talking to 24-year-old BMX racer and Coquitlam native Tory Nyhaug, who made his Olympic debut at the 2012 London Olympics as Canada’s lone BMX racer. He was lucky to even get to the Games, having ruptured his spleen for the second time just 11 weeks earlier, which caused him to miss the world championships. At the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Nyhaug won the gold medal.
Where are you from and where do you train? I am from Coquitlam, but I train mostly at the BMX track out in Abbotsford.
What are you looking forward to the most in Rio? Just looking forward to the racing. The best of the best are going to be there, and we are all looking forward to competing.
What has the last year of training been like for you? It’s definitely been more exciting just because it’s the build-up to the Olympics, but it doesn’t change anything else as far as training is concerned.
What’s your goal in Rio? I just really want to enjoy the racing. To look back after the Games and know that I got the full experience whether I won a medal or not is the biggest thing for me.
Did you ever see yourself becoming an Olympian? When BMX first came to the Olympics, I was still very young. It was announced in 2003 that it will be an Olympic sport in 2008 and I was just an 11-year-old kid. But I always wanted to become an Olympian and it has definitely been a focus of mine in the last few years.
What is your earliest memory of the Olympics? One of my earliest Olympic memories is from Salt Lake City in 2002 when the [Canadian] men’s hockey team won the gold medal. That was pretty exciting for me.
Who has been your greatest influence in your sport? My coach Pierre-Henri Sauze helped me out a lot in both my life and on the track. We have been working together since 2009, so he has always been a big part of my journey. My family has always been there for me and supporting me as well. Our sport can be all over the place and you can go through some huge ups and downs. It can be really difficult and they really helped me through those tough times.
Do you have any good luck charms/ superstitions? I like to wear black tall socks. I started wearing tall socks because they look better when I ride. I like the black ones because they blend in with the shoes and pants and don’t stick out too much. So it’s always something that I make sure to do on the race day.
What do you do to relax between training? I think it is good to take your mind off training, but it can be really difficult sometimes. I hang out with family and friends or go do something outside. I like to meditate as well, I started doing that this year.
Do you ever have a cheat day? If so what do you do/eat? I definitely eat healthy and make good choices, but I am not super worried about it. If I feel like eating ice cream, I will have it! I like to have a burger and fries too, that’s kind of of my go-to cheat meal usually, and I probably have it once every week or so.
Is anyone in your family or any of your friends hoping to attend the Games to support you? Yes, my mom, dad and sister.
Aside from training, do you have another job? I train full-time, that’s my job.
Do you play any other sports? I grew up playing hockey until I was about 17 actually. It got to the point where I had to pick between the two and I chose BMX. I really love playing hockey and I really miss it. My whole family are hockey fans, especially my dad, but I think I just have more passion for BMX.
If you weren’t an athlete, what would you like to do? I would like to coach BMX going forward. But I also thought of becoming a firefighter. My dad is a firefighter and has been most of his life. It’s a really rewarding job – you have to see a lot of hard things and you have to be ready for a lot of difficult situations. But I think it’s really rewarding and it’s something that I will consider after my BMX career.
Have you been in Brazil before? Yes, twice last year.
If you have time outside of the Games, where would you like to go or try or eat or drink in Rio? I am going to eat some Acai Bowls because they are just delicious. They are the best-tasting thing I’ve ever had! It’s an exotic super fruit. It’s kind of like a smoothie, but you eat it with a spoon. If I had my last meal, that’s what I would eat for dessert.
Do you know how to say anything in Portuguese? I know absolutely nothing in Portuguese!
Are you concerned about the Zika virus or the political situation in the country? To be honest, I am not really worried about it. I think Zika is something to be aware of, but if you are careful, you will be fine. A lot of the time, I think, those kind of issues may be blown out of proportion and becomes the only thing that people focus on – when really Rio is a beautiful place and they are going to put on a wonderful Olympics.