Former BMXA board member, official and parent Sally Howie was awarded BMXA life membership during last month’s AGM, and she was more than deserving of the honour
For 23 years Sally Howie was a BMX mum. Over the years her involvement cascaded from parent to club committee member, official, Australian team manager as well as Director of Finance with BMX Australia.
Those that know her understand how much she gave to the sport in each role that she occupied, particularly as BMX matured, grew in popularity and then earned its stripes as an Olympic sport.
It is therefore a surprise to no one, except perhaps Howie, that at last month’s BMXA Annual General Meeting she was awarded life membership. The accolade came following a nomination from BMX Queensland, and as it happened the award was granted unanimously at the AGM.
But her story begins well before the Olympics came knocking; it was a time when the organised competition of BMX in Australia was still in its infancy, in fact it was a mere 10 years after the very first official Australian BMX National Championships in 1981.
Like many parents, Howie found herself at a BMX track in 1991 to support her stepsons for the first time. Soon after, her own son and daughter were also on track at The Cove BMX Club in South Australia, and from that point on she was in. Such is the passion for BMX, that when people enter they are all-in. Families are fully committed and little compromises that.
By 1992 Howie was the treasurer of the club. She remained in that position until 2003 when the family made the move northeast to Queensland, landing at Nerang BMX Club on the Gold Coast.
Unlike her time in South Australia, where she had also become an official and member of the BMXSA board, Howie didn’t sit on the club committee in Nerang. Instead she assumed the position of Regional Officiating Director.
In 2004 she joined the Board of BMX Australia, and would remain as a director for a decade.
Howie with husband Alastair (PIC: Supplied)
The years that followed saw Howie officiate from club level to state and national level, as well as the 2009 UCI BMX World Championships in Perth, Western Australia. Three years later she was back on the world stage, except as an assistant team manager for the Australian team, stepping up to be manager in 2013 and 2014.
Unfortunately though, Howie’s BMX story isn’t all smooth sailing. While the mid 2000’s were shaping up as a golden period for the sport, especially for Howie’s daughter Renee Junga, troubled waters were just over the horizon.
BMX was announced as an Olympic sport in MONTH 2003, and by 2005 Junga had won a silver medal at the world championships, which led to being awarded the gong for the Australian female BMX cyclist of the year. At that point she was a part of the Australian BMX high-performance program, and was on a path that led directly to Beijing, China for the 2008 Olympic Games.
However in August 2006 that route took an unforseen turn for Junga, Howie and the rest of the family.
Like many BMX riders, Junga also loved mountain biking and had been selected in the Australian team to race the four-cross at the 2006 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Four-cross is a discipline akin to BMX and much like snowboard cross. Four riders race a downhill course with a series of jumps and turns. After seeing her rivals falling short on the first double jump in Rotorua, Junga did something different and pedalled harder – she came hot, steaming towards that first double.
But she overshot the mark, missed the landing and her bike landed flat on both wheels. It propelled Junga head first into the next jump. The result was a severe spinal injury. She fractured her C1 and C2 vertebrae and incurred spinal shock, in addition stabilisation of her spine at the T6 vertebrae required.
Howie flew to New Zealand that night to be with her daughter and said that the accident was a major upheaval for the family, the world changed. Impressively though, Howie’s dedication to BMX didn’t, and in part that was due to the support her family received at that difficult time.
“Renee was the last of my children to be involved with BMX, but even after her accident I remained involved in the sport as an official, team manager and national board member,” Howie said.
“I did it because I love the sport. But also because it allowed me to give back to BMX and to the community, especially after the support they gave Renee. Everyone got together around us, fundraised – the support was incredible.
“You can’t walk away from the people of a sport that assists you like that. It also kept Renee involved, because on days where she was down, she would come to the track with me and be part of it.”
But after almost a quarter of a century of giving to BMX, Howie bid farewell in 2014, keen to devote more time to her family, to give back to them. Giving to others, it’s the recurring theme in her journey to this point.
It was for that very reason, putting others before self, that Howie was awarded life membership of BMXA. It was a humbling experience for someone that has given so much.
“I was honoured, surprised, floored by it,” Howie said.
“I haven’t been around for a number of years, so for people to remember me and recognise me is very nice. Thank you to BMXQ for nominating me. It blew me away.
Howie with her family (PIC: Supplied)
“Thank you to all the people who were involved with my training and mentoring along the way. Becoming an official does not happen without support and I had plenty!
“There are too many to name in an article, but a huge thank you.”
What began as a trip to The Cove BMX Club, ended up with a legacy in the sport that helped shape how team managers look after teams today, and how officials continue to contribute to the sport. To top it all off, Howie is now among an elite group of BMXA life members.
Kudos, to her.