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Ramping up for Paris together

Alongside his own medal ambitions, Daniel Dhers is reveling in his role as Team China's BMX coach

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-22 07:52
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From left: Chinese riders Deng Yawen, Sun Sibei and Sun Jiaqi hold their respective trophies after sweeping the top three in the BMX freestyle park final in Shanghai on Saturday. OIS

Ride together

To his surprise, the level of Team China's BMX program, which was built in 2018 with most riders drafted from other sports, was already high enough.

It didn't take long before Dhers' guidance began to pay dividends in the international arena.

In their first event working together at the UCI World Cup in Montpellier, France, Zhou Huimin landed a women's gold ahead of Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Roberts, while Sun Jiaqi, Sun Sibei and Deng all finished in the top seven.

Deng later went on to win her first Cup series title on home turf in Bazhong, Sichuan province, in October, following Sun Sibei's runner-up finish at the worlds behind the victorious Roberts.

The Chinese riders' meteoric rise, which might have looked sudden to an outsider, did not surprise Dhers at all.

"The team already had a lot of good stuff, they already had a good progression," he said, adding that the work ethic of the Chinese athletes is second to none.

"They just didn't have direction. There's a million tricks and different things, so, where do you focus your energy?"

Riding, living and traveling together with his Chinese students, Dhers has naturally seen his input on technique, trick selection and BMX culture trickle through.

"We are basically on the same program. They do go over a lot of smaller details than I do, but we ride together every day, we go to the gym every day. What I ask them to do, I do, and vice-versa," Dhers explained.

"What happens a lot, is that they try tricks (in training) that they're scared of. Then I'm like, 'I now need to try a trick that I'm scared of'. I need to be on par with them, even though I know we are at different levels. The fear is the same. They motivate me that way."

With riding, communication is easy, despite the language barrier, Dhers reckons. To try to blend the culture with management is a bigger ask, though.

The different dynamics within the Chinese system, compared to the Western way, was felt at the first team lunch.

"I sat with the riders, and the team leader told me to come to another table (with the other officials)," Dhers recalled with a grin. "I was like 'I'm a rider, too'. I like hanging out with the riders."

"I am flexible. I don't care what you say and what you do, as long as you are not disrespecting anyone. If you like someone and you also have to work with someone, you find a way to communicate."

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