Alise Willoughby: The Rider Who Dared to Try

Alise Willoughby: The Rider Who Dared to Try

Posted by Chloee Pham on

Fear—a primal instinct evolved from our need to survive. In fact, it’s one of the most important tools we were equipped with from infancy. It protects us, keeps us alert, and prepares us for danger. But what happens if you reject it? This is the story of a young Minnesota girl who overcame her fears and adversities, discovering that facing your fears head on is sometimes the best way to live.

Alise Post was born on January 17, 1991, in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Growing up, her parents had always fueled her love for sports. She tried a variety of activities and ultimately competed in gymnastics and track & field as a sprinter and pole vaulter. “In both gymnastics and track, I was looking into competing in Division 1 collegiately,” she mentioned. 

alise gymnastics, working out, gym, preparation for race

And then there was BMX, the sport that trumped all others.

It all started when she was just 6. Well, it almost started. “I actually chickened out at my very first race,” 15 year old Alise remarked in a 2007 interview by Girls Can’t WHAT?. That day when she looked down the steep starting hill, her stomach churned, her nerves were on fire, her palms were sweaty. No, it was too much, she had decided—but she didn’t go home with nothing. Far more valuable than any prize she could’ve won, Alise left with something else: determination. It was only her first race, and yet, it was the last that she’d let fear win.

The very next week when she came back to the track, she was ready. Jaw set and helmet firmly in place, she pushed down hard on the pedal. There was no turning back this time, not even her first crash would steer her away. As the race wore on and the flames in her nerves died down, she crossed the line, taking 2nd place. 

alise race

At 15, Alise turned professional, ultimately taking home the National No. 1 Pro Women’s title from Tulsa, the 2006 Rookie Pro of the Year as voted by the readers of BMXer magazine, and becoming the first female to win a Golden Crank Award. The past 9 years of hard work and constant dedication to the sport had finally paid off.  “I never dreamed in a million years as a kid that I would be riding my bike all over the world,” she commented. The head-to-head competition and the rush of adrenaline that came every time Alise lined up at the starting gate was something she had come to love about BMX.

pro girl number 1

It was also at this age that Alise realized she could make her mark on the sport, not just by winning races and championships, but also by being a part of the movement to empower women in BMX. Talking about this, she said, “When I first entered the sport, there wasn’t really a women’s pro class.” Even as she got older, she found that BMX continued to be heavily male-dominated, with few sponsorship opportunities for women compared to their male counterparts. But that didn’t stop Alise—in fact, it made her racing better. Having frequently competed against the boys, she built up her strength and endurance, eventually catching and surpassing them. As she grew as a racer, so did female presence in the sport. She became a role model for other girls, proving that gender was not a barrier to skill in BMX. 

Unfortunately, even though she overcame this adversity, the hardships did not end there for Alise. In July of 2011, just one year out from the London Olympic Games and only 3 months after coming back from an ankle surgery, a serious knee injury caused her to undergo reconstructive surgery. “It was really hard to sit on the sidelines and see the carrot you had your eyes on seem a lot further away,” she acknowledged. Pushing the rehabilitation limits and timeline under her knee surgeon’s guidance, she managed to get back on the track wearing a side-loaded knee brace in just 5 months time. Against the clock for the London USAC Team Power Rankings, she had a standout international season, won her first World Cup and competed in her first Olympic Games at London 2012. Further injuries and surgeries sidelined her after the Games, but the biggest blow came when Alise’s mom, Cheryl Post, was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma cancer in April 2013. She passed away the following January.

alise olympics
the next few years, Alise bounced back, both mentally and physically. After waiting four grueling years, it was her time to shine at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. And shine she did. Alise was once again in top form, her dedication and discipline earning her a silver medal at the Games. Celebrations were cut short, however, as disaster struck again only a few weeks later. Alise’s then-fiancé, Sam Willoughby, had suffered a spinal cord injury. The Olympic training accident had left the Australian rider with broken vertebrae in his neck, the doctor saying after the surgery that he would be permanently paralyzed. It was over. All of it. The career. The dream—

sam willoughby

Not so fast. Although this may have stunted Sam’s career as a racer, it certainly didn’t stunt his relationship. If anything, the following months only helped strengthen the bond between Sam and Alise. In 2017, he became Alise’s coach, hoping to help her just as much as she had helped him during his recovery. In a USA Today article, Alise added, “His perspective on life has become what motivates me deep down. He doesn’t blame BMX for a second. Instead, he sees it was sport that’s helped him have a work ethic to embrace life and push forward. He can find the best in any situation really, and that positivity is contagious.”

The fear of losing his identity. The fear of losing his relationship. With the help of Alise, these were things that Sam overcame. And as he walked down the aisle during their marriage ceremony, with only the help of some locked out leg braces, a walker, and Alise’s shoulder to lean on, fear was happy to be defied. 

sam and alise

Whether it be in her career or in her personal life, Alise is always ready to take on a challenge. “I try to take it on with as much of a smile as I can. It’s not easy and you don't wish those kinds of tragedies on anyone, but I think I'm a stronger person for them.”

Today, Alise is one of the most well-known, successful BMX riders in the world. It’s no surprise that throughout her 25 years in the sport, her immense skill has led her to accomplish many incredible feats, as featured below:

  • 2x UCI Elite Women World Champion, (7x medalist, 11x Finalist).
  •  2016 Rio Olympic Silver Medalist.
  • 10x USA Cycling Elite National Champion.
  • 13x USA BMX National Champion (9 Professional, 4 Amateur).
  • Winningest rider in USA BMX history, male or female.
  • 2006 Rookie Pro of the Year & 3x Pro of the Year Winner, First Female Ever.
  • 2017 NORA Cup Racer of the Year Nominee.
  • First female to earn all three Girls' division classifications: No.1 Girl Amateur, No.1 Girl Amateur Cruiser, and No.1 Girl Pro (youngest Pro winner at age 15).
  • Founder of the Annual Alise Post MS Race for a Cure, which donated upwards of $90k to the MS Society between 2010-2016.
  • Family was and remains the driving force behind Pineview Park BMX in her hometown of St. Cloud, MN.
world championship

At Box, we’re excited to keep supporting Alise into the future to help this list grow. “It's been an honor to work with Box as they’ve developed over the years,” she mentions. “Safety and stiffness on a bike is important and being on the leading edge of technology in any sport is important. Being a part of that as they keep pushing forward with the Oversized product line, I'm honored to represent the brand and keep growing with them.” 

Life can throw many curveballs, so Alise plans to take things one step at a time from now and into the future. “In the short term, it’s always ‘win the day,’” she says. But with her coach-husband at her side, there’s no doubt she’ll be going for gold in the 2024 Paris Olympics. “2024 is a big year on the horizon. I just want to be a threat every time I line up in the gate and keep enjoying the ride as we go along.”

olympics box number plate

Beyond that, Alise intends to keep making an impact on the sport, even if some years down the road she isn’t a rider anymore. “I'd love to still be able to be involved in the sport and be a mentor to younger people. I’ve been around a long time and you don't want that experience to go to waste,” she says. “Physical therapist, medical world… I love being able to be that person for other people, to be able to see them achieve their goals. In the end, it's about bringing people together and making them happy.”

Lastly, for any young riders aspiring to become a BMX pro, Alise has a few words to share:

“Dare to try. Never fear failure. Don't set limits on yourself. Keep doing what you love. There will be hard times—it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Put the work in and enjoy the ride along the way. Embrace whatever challenge gets thrown your way and you'll find your success.”

If you ever find yourself in the same situation Alise did when she was 6, remember that the hill isn’t as steep as it looks. Remember that the same girl that chickened out of her first race is an Olympic silver medalist. Remember that you are the rider who dared to try.

Written by: Leo Anderson

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment


2023 Box Factory Team | BMX

2023 Box Factory Team | BMX

By Chloee Pham

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for an adrenaline-fueled ride with Box's 2023 Factory Team. It's going to be one hell of a season with our co-sponsors...

Read more
Choosing Your Drivetrain

Choosing Your Drivetrain

By Chloee Pham

What is the purpose of a drivetrain on a mountain bike? A mountain bike's drivetrain consists of shifters, rear derailleurs, cassettes, chains, chainrings, and cranksets....

Read more