Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where Are They Now? Chasing Down... Jason Richardson

by Amanda H. Miller

Jason Richardson was still racing w hile he pursued his doctorate.
Jason Richardson was still racing w hile he pursued his doctorate.
Jason Richardson was five years old when his big brother started racing BMX bikes in the late 1980s.

“I wanted to do it, too,” Richardson said. “I was terrible when I started. Terrible. But my brother was good, so I didn’t have to be.”

Through most of his BMX career, Richardson, who is now a licensed Psychologist and Doctor with an MBA and a business built around inspiring people, businesses and athletes to rise to their potential, never expected he would one day be a BMX legend. He didn’t forecast a 1994 World Championship or a 2007 Pan American Games victory.

He just liked racing and kept looking for ways to stay on the bike until he retired in 2008 as the oldest racer in the sport at the time.

From the beginning, Richardson’s future as one of the best BMX racers in history was not fated or obvious.

Richardson’s brother was almost five years older and he had a lot of success early on.

“He was getting a lot of notoriety and winning and getting sponsorships.”

The boys grew up mostly in New Jersey with their mom, but first discovered BMX bikes while visiting their dad in Las Vegas. He lived near the Desert Surf skate park. The boys borrowed a bike that first year of racing and each got their own bikes when they visited their dad for Christmas. It was pretty exciting.

Richardson said he was never very good but loved going to the races.

Getting into it

“I didn’t start coming into my own until I was 14 or 15,” he said.

It all changed because he was bored one summer. He was going into eighth grade when he asked his mom if he could ride his bike to the track, which was about five miles from his house. He rode nearly every day that summer.

“The first local race that season I won and everyone was really surprised,” Richardson said.

He won several amateur events that year and decided he wanted to get into the national racing scene. Around that time, he moved to Las Vegas to live with his father.

“I’d won kind of haphazardly back in Jersey and started to create this expectation for myself,” he said. “I wanted to race and get sponsored and get to the point where I was one of the winning guys in the amateur class.”

Richardson’s dad supported his BMX goals, but wanted to see him commit fully to the sport.

“My dad said if I wanted to race he needed to see me training – well, we called it practicing then,” he said.

Richardson rode up Lone Mountain Road nearly every day to train. He thought it was a pretty big hill until he moved to San Diego as an adult and realized his Vegas training ground had been pretty mellow.

Going pro

He figured he would have to give up his BMX biking once he went to college. That, combined with the knowledge he wouldn’t be able to amass enough points in his age group to win a meaningful title, convinced him to go pro. He just wanted to be able to say he’d been pro before he gave it all up.

“I didn’t really have any plans to make it a career,” Richardson said. “I was just going to have fun and hopefully make a little money before college.”

He raced single A because he never really considered getting into AA.

His sponsor, Auburn, would pay for just five races. He was in his freshman year at the University of San Diego and he didn’t have a car, just his bike.

He didn’t shine in his first two pro races. And he didn’t do well on the first day of his third race in Phoenix. But it rained that Sunday.

“I don’t know what happened, but something just clicked and I won,” he said. He did OK in Bakersfield. El Paso was going to be the last race his sponsor covered. He almost had enough winnings to turn up to AA, but not quite.

“I figured if I’m going to have this be my last paid race, I’m going to turn myself up and hopefully have my sponsor pay.”

Auburn paid to bump him up to the next level and he nailed it – finishing in the top three. While his sponsor didn’t cover any more races, Richardson used the winnings from each race to pay for the next one and had a complete season.

The next year, TNT Bikes sponsored him and he was training, racing and going to college full time.

“I was on a roll,” he said. “The sponsorships picked up and racing had turned into a job.”

He won a world title in 1994 – one of his proudest moments in racing. His friends from college were all looking for work and he already had enough money in the bank to buy a house after he graduated in 1997.

Planning for the future

He negotiated a great sponsorship with Giant and everything looked pretty great. “But I felt like – wow, I’m lucky. And also, I could lose all this. At the end of the day, it’s someone else’s decision if they want to pay me to ride my bike.”

So, Richardson decided to get his Masters in Business Administration. He studied and raced full time. And he just kept racing. There were some ups and downs with the sponsorships, but they were usually there and Richardson kept riding.

He broke his femur in 2006. Haro was his sponsor and they took care of him, giving him a coaching roll while he was off the track for six months.

“I didn’t want to have that be the way I went out,” he said.

So, he went back to racing that year as one of the oldest riders in the sport.

“My second race back after I broke my leg, I sat on the plane next to a couple – they were psychologists,” Richardson said.

He asked them a lot of questions about what they did and what they liked about it. He had been to sports psychologists before and was a philosophy major. It seemed like a good fit.

Dr. Richardson

“Literally, when I got off the plan that October I was researching programs and I was back in school by that January,” he said.

Richardson kept racing while he pursued his doctorate and had an opportunity to ride in the Pan American Games in 2007.

“I wanted to win it,” he said. I was so far along in age for a racer and I knew it was one of those races that go down in the history books. People might not know about cycling, but they’ve probably heard of the Pan American Games. There was some ego and legacy stuff in there.”

That’s why the Pan American gold medal win in 2007 is one of his most memorable and proud BMX moments.

He retired from racing after that in 2008 and finished his doctorate in 2011. Today, he works with athletes and offers training and motivational workshops for businesses. He’s a sought-after speaker and has found a lot of enjoyment and success in his new profession. He helps people identify and work toward their goals, something he finds tremendously satisfying.

He and his wife have two boys, who are 5 and 9.

“They know how to ride and they have great equipment,” Richardson said about his kids. “But I don’t know that they’re as into it as I was. They’re both athletic and talented. I just don’t think biking is their thing.”

Article Source: USA Cycling 

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