Olympic & World Champion Niek Kimmann Shares His Story
Niek Kimmann is a professional BMX racer, three-time World Champion, and a gold medalist Olympian. His accomplishments follow a lifelong journey of BMX racing. He shared his story with Box on what his BMX career was all about.
Kimmann grew up in a small village called Lutten, located in the Netherlands and lived there for 15 years. His parents were influential, athletic and enjoyed the outdoors. His mother was a horseback rider, and his father was an ice skater. When he was younger, he spent two hours a week trying out different sports such as track and field, football, and others, but none of these called out to him. It wasn't until his friends introduced him to BMX that he found his passion instantly. His first experience riding at his local BMX track was what he would call "love at first sight."
The flying Dutchman began his riding journey when he was only seven years old. Growing up on a farm, he had plenty of room to ride his bike around. As he continued to race, he would frequent the Dedemsvaart track near his hometown for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday. He was mentored by the track's coach amongst other kids. "I was lucky to have a good coach at my track, the help they gave me, the way they inspired me, and how they showed me more about the sport and what it takes to get to the top. This ultimately gave me a dream as a kid," Niek shared.
As a novice rider, he looked up to the best riders at his local track. As he continued to advance in the sport, he started to look up to the top racers in the Netherlands specifically. In 2007, he attended the World Championships, where he watched Kyle Bennett win! This was inspiring for him, and it helped him set his next goal.
As the years went by, Kimmann joined the DVE Sports team at the age of 15. DVE Sports team supported him by giving him a complete bike. Shortly after, he was chosen to be on the talent team, which allowed him to move to the city to progress his training. While he traveled, he would train in the mornings, go to school, then train again after school. As busy as that kept him, he was motivated more than ever. When he moved to the city, he realized that this was more than just a hobby but rather something he wanted to live for.
Growing up, he was a talented rider when he was first introduced to the sport. He wanted to pursue it professionally by the age of 9 but was unsure of its practicality. When he turned 16 after his national wins in the Netherlands, he saw potential to make BMX racing his career. Mentally, he was prepared for whatever it took, even if he didn't win.
Niek's successful career has led to many memories, accomplishments, and struggles, but the following highlights his proudest moments:
(1) Junior World Championship in 2014
(2) World Cup in 2015
(3) Junior World Championship in 2015
(4) Elite World Championship in 2016
(5) Tokyo Olympics in 2021
(6) Elite World Championship in 2021
Although there were other milestones in his racing career, these highlights his proudest moments. They each have their own story and buildup, making it unforgettable.
His first sponsorship with the Dutch Team, also known as Team NL at 19 years old, was when he won the World Championship. BMX racing then became his full-time job while also paying the bills. As his experience grew, so did his confidence. He knew he could turn pro and make a career out of BMX relatively fast. He did not feel as if his Junior World Championship title in 2014 nor his World Title in 2015 were a big deal because he saw older guys racing with him. He is competitive and started racing against those he looked up to and became even more eager to beat them.
Fast forward to 2021, just a few months ago, Kimmann accomplished his ultimate goal: Becoming the Olympic Champion. What did his training look like for such an accomplishment? He spent six weeks preparing. He shared that the Olympics was just another day that required continuous improvement for him. Focusing on his mental state while staying calm, his dreams came true, and he won. It's something he dreamt of, and with the Olympics only once every four years, the moment became real. The buildup, training towards it and dealing with the distress, pressure, and still delivery was unimaginable. The approach of wanting something so badly and actually making it happen was more than the actual prize of the medal" he shared.
Throughout his racing career, Kimmann had traveled around the world while pursuing his passion. As a kid, he had always dreamt of going to the United States, and because of racing, he was able to train in the USA three times in a single year. He fancies new places, sightseeing, riding on different tracks, and learning about other cultures. He recalled that Japan, China, Argentina, the United States, and Colombia have very diverse cultures, which he saw as a "big bonus!"
2021 has been an action-packed year for him, to say the least. He first took the medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Soon after, he conquered the Worlds and won the World Championship only weeks later, even after an injury. He shared that going into two giant races back to back was stressful, and he wanted to take some time off to celebrate but had to get back up and train. That being said, his excitement shortly followed to prepare for Worlds, and when he won, he said that the moment was crazy! There were no spectators, family, or friends at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; however, the Worlds Champion was a completely different experience. It was exhilarating because he was surrounded by cheering spectators, family, and friends, a game-changer. Still, he was glad to have experienced both. He generally struggled to be motivated when no spectators were cheering him on. Still, at the Olympics, the moment was just too consequential that even without spectators, he had quite the adrenaline rush. As soon as the gate dropped, it was the same with or without an audience, and it just felt like riding with your mates, even though you know there were millions of people watching.
Niek's successful career was not without struggle. He shared that he always struggled with expectations from people around him. He remembered when he won Worlds at a very young age, and it almost took the fun out of racing. When his results were not as good because he'd set the bar so high for himself, he was not as motivated mentally. He felt that his perspective changed from wanting to have fun to want to win. After that, he struggled with racing as a whole. Two years later, he realized that he should be racing for fun and continued to remind himself just that. As a result, he started winning again.
He wanted to emphasize that his mental health is a priority and that his passion drove him to do well in BMX. Results were secondary. He learned that even if he did not win, his friends and family would still love him. If anything, these years have taught him that races do not define him, and since then, he felt his life has become a whole lot easier.
Another struggle Kimmann dealt with was injuries. He witnessed his friends and training partners get hurt with life-altering injuries. One of his training partners was going 45 miles per hour and forgot to remove the chain. After that, he watched his training partners learn how to walk, talk, and live again. Seeing this through his eyes was not easy, and it was a lesson in itself.
In 2013, he started riding with Box Components (Box). He was still a junior at the time and had been riding with Box for the last 8 years! He remembered his first time riding with Oversized™ parts, which was different from other parts in the industry, and his first thoughts were that it was rock solid. After racing with Box Oversized™ parts for so long, Niek explained that Oversized™ products just feel so comfortable. It helped riders not worry about their bikes because it felt like an extension of their bodies. Kimmann shared how Box has been loyal to him and the Dutch team (Team NL) and when he raced in the United States, he felt welcomed by Box who showed up like family.
Niek shared that his ultimate racing dream had always been to win the Olympics because it's the most significant event ever. That was always the ultimate dream. "You win it, and your mind goes to the next race. Sometimes you just need a bad race to get your feet back on the ground," he shared.
In the near future, Niek hopes to race one year in the United States. He had decided not to rush things and take it easy for a while because of his fractured kneecap. Lastly, he wanted to share some advice for younger riders:
"Whether you want to do BMX or any sport, just find something you enjoy. If you enjoy it, then you're going to do it a lot and get better. Try to find ways where you can improve on yourself. Don't just listen to the coach. Watch other riders, see what you can do better. Take it one step at a time. Try to improve every single day."