Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Jamie Bestwick, world BMX champion

'I didn't get a bike until I was 10'
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The Independent Online

Jamie Bestwick, 34, is ranked world No 1 in BMX freestyle. He has won the World Championships, the Gravity Games and the Summer X Games. He is competing at the Snickers Bowl at the Download Festival, Castle Donington, Derby, tomorrow

I will always remember my last day at the Infants, in Riddings, Derbyshire. I climbed up a tree, fell and broke my arm. The dinner ladies called my parents and strapped my arm to a tea-tray with serving towels. Years later, as a professional at the Gravity Games, I snapped the same arm clean in half. One titanium plate and seven screws later, I'm back in the game.

Juniors was when I realised that school wasn't just a place to drink milk and listen to stories. I remember learning about Henry VIII - the minute you mention wives being beheaded, that appeals to children. As we didn't have PlayStations then, on which you can shoot people,beheading sounded cool to us.

It was a good time, with friends and sport. The big draw of being in the football team was getting a ride in the headmaster's car. We'd all sing to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock'n'Roll" as we went to the football ground for a good thrashing on the pitch.

I never really had a bicycle until I was 10. At the time, BMX was booming and there were contests on TV. I used to borrow other people's, as my friends had BMXs six months before me. For Christmas 1981, my dad took me to SuperCycles in Nottingham and bought me a BMX; it cost £99 (the bike I have now is worth about £1,000).

We just used our bikes to get around, until we watched BMX Bandits, one of Nicole Kidman's first films, and the tricks appealed to us. I remember taking my cycling proficiency test; I was pretty proud of it at the time. Today, young people should be able to leave their bikes in secure lock-ups at school.

Swanwick Hall was a comprehensive a mile-and-a-half down the road, in Alfreton. I always enjoyed school and I made a lot of good friends. I took a keen interest in the cookery class: I was the only boy in a class full of girls - work that out!

A BMX club opened at the local leisure centre. I went to watch local competitions and that led to me enter one at 13. I would love to see action sports - skateboarding and cycling - put into the curriculum alongside the mainstream sports. Look at Jamie Oliver: it's a matter of people making a change. Not everybody wants to be a footballer.

I think I got five CSEs and I left school at 16. My dad wanted me to get a job instead of going to college. I was entering competitions and got to be the best rider in Europe for many years - while still working as an inspector of engine parts at an aerospace company. I was 28 when I turned professional. I got an offer I couldn't refuse from GT Bikes in the States: to ride my bike and not have to worry about my bills.

Freestyle BMX is more individual than BMX racing; I guess it's trick cycling. One of my big stunts is a "double tail-whip flair", a manoeuvre on the half-pipe, a 13ft-high U-shaped construction. I leave on one side of the ramp, go upside-down, spin the bike around twice, take a 180-degree shift and come back, hopefully, where I started.

My son was born last year and has three bikes already. People say, tongue in cheek, "We don't want him to do what you're doing". And I say, "Don't keep buying him the bikes then!".

jonty@jonathansale.com

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