Ashli Sims, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- BMX has gained a lot of ground since its 2008 Olympic debut, and the premiere BMX event is happening in Tulsa this weekend, promising a multi-million dollar boost to the city's economy.
It took 6,000 square yards of dirt to transform QuikTrip Center into BMX central, and thousands of fans came to enjoy the ABA BMX Grand Nationals.
"Everybody loves Tulsa. If you're a BMX racer, Thanksgiving means Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Expo Square," said Bernard Anderson, ABA BMX Grand Nationals CEO.
They've come from all 50 states and more than 15 countries to participate and cheer on their favorites.
One BMX mom said all four of her children are competing.
"I'm here from Nebraska. We come here every year. We've been doing it for five years now," said Kimberly Stoll, BMX Mom. "This is the biggest race of the season, so we wouldn't miss it for the world."
Sam Willoughby was just 6 years old when he started BMX. Thirteen years later, the native Australian is a Junior World Champion and a 2012 Olympic hopeful.
"Growing up in Australia, watching the DVDs this always the race you wanted to come to," said Willoughby "It's big, everyone comes to it. It's probably the most prestigious race in the world."
"It's my goal at the moment. I just got to keep taking each stepping stone as it comes kind of thing," Willoughby said.
But even for those at the top of their game, crashes seem to be par for the course. One devastating collision took out a gold medal winner, who was a contender for the Grand Nationals title.
Latvian Maris Stombergs had to be carried off the track, but he was able to wave to fans.
"Every time I see my kids get a little squirrelly on the track, I swallow my stomach, every time. I've watched some of the bigger guys take some hard crashes. We've had a couple of broken bones today and yesterday," Stoll said.
Stoll said injuries usually aren't that serious, and she and her family have become addicted to this sport that shows no signs of slowing down.
The event continued through Sunday evening.
This was the 13th year for Tulsa to host the event, and officials said it brought more than $7 million to the local economy.