THERE are moments when Jaclyn Wilson wonders, as she sits at the starting gates amid a sea of teenage girls, what she is doing.
“Sometimes when I am getting ready to race in the age 14 and up category I do think, ‘Oh my goodness’,” she laughs.
“But this is something I was born to do. When you have a passion for something you do it.’’
In Jaclyn’s case it extends beyond a mere passion – as a BMX Australian and world champion several times over, she is blessed with a rare combination of fast reflexes, speed and innate competitiveness.
As a young girl growing up in Bendigo, she was obsessed with riding her bike. “I used to ride it around and around the house for hours and hours on end,” says the 35-year-old mother of two.
When she was four, her godmother took her to her first BMX event, and from that moment on she knew she had found the thing she was destined to do.
“That was it really, that was the beginning of it for me,” she says.
Her family moved from Bendigo to the Gold Coast when Jaclyn was young to give her more opportunities to develop her skills as a rider.
At 10 she took out the “10 girls class” at the World BMX Championships in Chile; a feat she matched two years later at the world championships in France.
“I remember being quite young and going up hills and being in a lot of pain but thinking to myself, ‘This is what you need to do if you want to be the world champion’,’’ she says.
“It was crazy how much time I put in to it, it has really been my life. There were times when it kept me awake at night worrying about how I would compete the next day.”
By her late teens, however, Jaclyn noticed herself drifting away from the sport.
“I guess I felt like I needed a new challenge,’’ she says.
“I’m extremely competitive in everything I do, and I felt like I had achieved everything I wanted to achieve by a certain age.”
She set-up her own hair dressing business and returned to Bendigo where she also started a family.
When her first son took up BMX when he was five, it rekindled Jaclyn’s love of the sport.
At the beginning of 2009 – after a 13-year hiatus – Jaclyn jumped on her Cruiser BMX. After only four months of training, she took out two Australian titles in the 17-plus and 30-34 women’s class.
Jaclyn also went on to win world titles in 2009 and 2011, and was runner-up last year.
She is the current Australian champion in the 17-and-over and 30-and-over age group. Her achievements are all the more remarkable in light of the fact she suffers from Meniere’s disease – a condition in which an excess of fluid in the inner ear affects her balance.
She trains a handful of times a week and would love to train more, but the demands of being a mum and running her own business take up most of her time.
Jaclyn also feels hampered by the poor state of the BMX facilities in Bendigo, claiming they do not allow for adequate preparation for world titles.
“I am not even sure if I will be going to next year’s World Championships in New Zealand,” she says.
“It’s an indoor track and the tracks are not even comparable. The start hills are six metres, but in Bendigo it is about two metres high.
“You can’t possibly get the training you require. And I only compete to win, not to get second place.’’
(The Bendigo BMX club has plans to improve its track.) Both her boys are keen riders, which gives Jaclyn the chance to indulge in the sport she loves while spending time with her family.
Although she notes, with refreshing honesty, that neither boys have displayed as yet the skills needed to succeed at the top tier of the sport.
She is pleased, however, to note BMX is gaining in popularity and street cred.
“We have about 100 members in our Bendigo BMX club, whereas four years ago it was about 10,’’ she says.
“It used to be that I was the only one who wore make-up when riding, but now all the girls do.
“It has become quite glamorous.’’