Not all superheroes wear capes, and not all elite BMX riders have become household names. The Harriet Burbidge-Smith story is one of a rider who consistently chases the dream and finally found a silver lining in 2018.
Cover Pic: Charlesthetog.com
‘Patience is a virtue’, is a proverbial phrase often spoken to praise someone who can demonstrate great patience, or to encourage someone to show greater patience. One of the seven virtues, patience is expressed through the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
For Canberra’s Harriet Burbidge-Smith, the virtue of patience has been one that has guided her 2018.
Burbidge-Smith or ‘Haz’, as she signs off on her emails, is an avid BMX rider who pours everything she has into her passion. While she’s never been a world champion, nor is she spoken of in the same gushing manner as more fancied riders with multiple titles to their name, no one can deny that Haz has serial dedication to a life on two wheels.
Such is that dedication, Burbidge-Smith has spent 2018 criss-crossing the globe for BMX events, and in recent times for a shot at glory at the UCI Mountain Bike Four-Cross World Championships in Val Di Sole – Trentino, Italy.
From France to Frankston, Penrith to Papendal, Burbidge-Smith has put it all on the line. But even with such a significant physical and financial undertaking, expectations have remained modest. Patience as it happened, was what her 2018 would be predicated on.
“I knew from the beginning of the year that it might not be my year after two seasons being injured,” Burbidge-Smith admitted as she discussed her 2018 to date.
“Injuries have helped with my patience. It’s all about realising where you are placed, and then keeping your head in the game with positive self-talk when you’re on the way back.
“The reality is that this year would be one of slowly building, and that next year and the following years would be ones where I could aim for good results. I just needed to keep doing what I do and stay patient.”
What Burbidge-Smith ‘does’, is put herself on the line in the heat of racing and under the microscope of the digital world.
When she isn’t racing, she’s vlogging via her YouTube channel ‘HAZNATIONBMX/MTB’, which has a healthy 3,259 subscribers. It takes personal courage to be an open book to the world and accept adulation or inevitable negative feedback, but continue to live your life in an open, honest and documented way like Burbidge-Smith does.
Coincidentally, ‘courage’ (often referenced as ‘fortitude’) was considered by Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato as one of the four ‘Cardinal Virtues’. There’s that word again – virtues. The more you delve into the life of Burbidge-Smith, the less surprised you are to see that her life correlates with so many virtuous attributes.
But sport is a tough beast, a mongrel that demands dedication, persistence and a dose of hard work and talent in varying volumes. Even an athlete who is the model of virtue and everything it means to be ‘elite’, won’t always receive the result that they may feel they deserve.
Although Burbidge-Smith is an image of what it means to be an athlete and a member of the BMX community, 2018 has also been a year where top results – as expected, to a degree – have been few and far between.
In the heat of the competition at the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup rounds earlier this year, Burbidge-Smith recorded her top result – 32nd/quarterfinalist – in round two of the series in Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines, France. Mixed results followed in the ensuing rounds in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Despite the struggle for standout results in BMX, Burbidge-Smith has used her travels as a barometer for where she needs to be. Ever positive, the ACT local assessed her international exploits with a grain of salt and a look towards 2019.
“This year has been great,” she says with conviction.
“Every time I have been over to Europe I feel that I step up, so I want to spend more time on big tracks. I know where I need to be among a field of immensely talented athletes.
“Women’s racing is so much closer than it was five years ago, and the gap has closed so much. It’s so hard to know who will make finals, and that makes it exciting.”
With a handful of lessons learned on the road with BMX, Burbidge-Smith returned to Australia. Her sport had thrown down a terse challenge, but even when it was tough, she positioned herself as the rider who kept knocking on the door. The door didn’t open when it came time for selection to the Australian team for the UCI BMX World Championships in Azerbaijan, Baku. But it did open soon after…
…Only, it wasn’t BMX who answered.
This time around it was the world of mountain bike and an offer of selection to the Australian team for the four-cross world championships in Italy.
With little money in the bank, Burbidge-Smith threw a line out via crowdfunding to chase an unmissable opportunity. Once again, she had the courage to put herself out there, and not long later she was again packing her bags to depart the nation’s capital.
In Italy, it clicked. Burbidge-Smith donned the Australian colours and raced to fourth. It wasn’t a podium, but it may as well have been one with the self-assurance that result gave to the Canberran.
“Representing Australia was a top thing to do and gave me confidence ahead of 2019, and helped me to think about what I want,” Burbidge-Smith said.
“The Canberra community, BMX and mountain bike communities got behind me for this event. I was hesitant to crowdfund initially, but my coach encouraged me to do it. It’s amazing to have that support and it gave me something to fight for outside of my own reasons.”
Patience, courage and the ability to maintain both in equal measure are traits that many riders could learn from Burbidge-Smith. Her spirit and fight exemplify what BMX and Aussie sport is about.
Haz, as it happens is here to have a red-hot go – no questions asked.