At just 19, Payton Ridenour is one of the youngest athletes to compete in the Tokyo Olympics — and the youngest athlete on the BMX racing team.
“COVID is the best thing that could have happened to me with the Olympic qualifications because that gave me a whole extra year to prepare,” Ridenour said in an interview.
“Last year my big goal was to go to Tokyo, and I knew it was attainable but it was a little far away to reach,” Ridenour said in an interview. “With that year from COVID with no competitions, I was able to train at my house and really focus on getting better and getting more experience.
“Coming into this year I was so much faster than last year and all around just a better athlete.”
Take a look at Ridenour’s journey to Japan.
Ridenour is a seven-time USA BMX national champion and is one of the top-ranked amateur riders in the United States. She rides multiple disciplines and won the UCI Red Bull Pump Track World Championships in 2019. Ridenour also placed fourth in the world among junior elite women in 2019.
Ridenour graduated from Owen J Roberts High School in 2020. Throughout high school, Ridenour was both a straight-A student and a longtime rider at Trilogy Park BMX Track in Pottstown.
Ridenour isn’t the only one in her family that loves BMX. Her father, Keith Ridenour, is also a longtime BMX rider. He’s ridden since he was a child.
“I rode bikes every day, it’s what I did. I loved it as a kid and I still love it,” he said in an interview with a local Pottstown paper.
Ridenour is sponsored by Mongoose Bikes, WD-40, Shimao and the USA BMX Foundation. The USA BMX Foundation is a non-profit that offers cycling-inspired STEM education programs for U.S. elementary schools.
Ridenour will race alongside Olympic newbie Felicia Stancil and three-time Olympian Alise Willoughby.
‘A to Z: BMX Style‘
Outside of racing on the track, Ridenour has a passion for learning and inspiration.
Ridenour used her down time from racing to work with freelance illustrator Andy Lendway on completing her first children’s book, “A to Z: BMX Style.”
“I wanted this children’s book to come to life because there is nothing like that in the BMX community. The kids have pros that they can look up to, but a lot of them don’t have pros at their local BMX track,” Ridenour said in an interview.
“To have kids to be able to look up to something and have something inspire them was my goal.”
Ridenour hopes that this book will inspire anyone with an interest in bikes.