Former BMX world champ returns to the sport after 34-year hiatus
"I'm so lucky to be a part of the BMX family."
By Athena Stavrou via SWNS
A former world champion BMX racer has made an unlikely return to the sport after a 34-year hiatus - following a tough battle with the menopause
Sarah-Jane Nichols, 52, won gold in the world BMX championship in 1986, following a tremendous run as a seven-time British champion and four-time European champion.
She began racing at just 11 years old when she came downstairs on Christmas morning in 1981 to find a shiny red BMX bike.
She won gold at her very first race meet in Southampton, and was immediately 'hooked,' going on to race until the age of 19.
In 1988 she retired and took up ice hockey instead.
Despite retiring 34 years ago, Sarah-Jane, from Bramley, UK, has finally decided to make a return to racing, after being 'hit by the menopause terribly' and having to retire from ice hockey during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Sarah Jane, who works as a housekeeper at a school, said: "I'd been playing ice hockey for the past 35 years and even played for England and Great Britain, but when covid hit, the menopause hit me too, it all came at once.
"I was struggling with menopause hugely, about 30 symptoms hit me in the space of three months. I felt so awful and low, I was irritable, tired, and having hot flashes, and I didn't know what was happening to me.
"When other people were taking up new things and exercises in lockdown, I was stuck on the sofa, I realized the late nights of ice hockey had taken their toll.
"I'd gone from being a really sporty person to doing nothing. I went to the doctor, who put me on HRT, which helped, and retired from ice hockey in the meantime.
"Then I found my old BMX from 1985, the original bike I won the worlds with, so I thought I'm going to go and get this restored and go to some rallies."
Sarah-Jane's bike took weeks to restore but was ready in time for a Christmas BMX rally, Santa Cruise, last year, where she reunited with other old-school BMX fans.
Since, she has been inducted into the BMX hall of fame as a pioneer of female BMX racing, rode in the Queen's Platinum Jubilee parade, and even met Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy, who asked for a photo with her.
Although it was originally Sarah-Jane's intention to only 'get on my old bike and go to some rallies,' she now has decided she's going to make a comeback to competitive racing - taking part in regional meetings in April, allowing her to qualify for the British championships.
She said: "I went to Andover BMX club and had a go on some new bikes, and that's when it suddenly started changing.
"Within a month, I had bought a new bike and the rest is history. Since last May, I've trained two to three times a week and done a couple of club races.
"I'm looking to make the podium at the British championships, that would be amazing after everything.
"I'd say to other women that it's definitely a sport you can start at 52, it doesn't matter about your age.
"Even if you don't race, it's fantastic for fitness and if you enjoy riding a bike, why not give it a go, it's so much fun. Everyone is so supportive and it's a lovely atmosphere, I'm so lucky to be a part of the BMX family.
"I'm learning new skills all the time, so much has changed with the whole new style of BMX racing, but I still have that natural ability at the core of me still from the 80s.
"It's still the same feeling, absolutely incredible getting out on the track."
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