The inaugural Australian BMX Hall of Fame Gala Dinner took place this evening, with five riders inducted into the hall of fame, while youngster Thomas Tucker was the first ever recipient of the Sam Willoughby Medal.
Cover pic: Thomas Tucker on the way to world title #7 in Baku (PIC: Craig Dutton Photography)
Tonight’s event took place at the Mecure Gold Coast Resort with 200 guests attending the formal event. In addition to Tucker claiming the night’s largest award, Jamie Hales, Leigh Egan, Paul Addams, Wayne McIntosh and Natarsha Williams were inducted into the Australian BMX Hall of Fame.
Aimed at bridging the gap between current riders and a rich history of BMX in Australia, tonight’s event saw riders of all ages and eras celebrate the sport. Accordingly, the Sam Willoughby medal was awarded as a way of recognising a current rider who has produced outstanding success internationally, domestically and at a state level in a calendar year.
Judged by Willoughby himself and former elite riders turned Australian coaches Luke Madill and Wade Bootes, Tucker got the nod to be the first recipient of the Sam Willoughby medal just six weeks after claiming his sixth consecutive world 20” challenge title. In total, the youngster has seven worlds gold to his name courtesy of winning the 12 & under Cruiser event in 2017.
At just 13-years-of-age, Tucker is beginning to amass a litany of highlights on all stages, including exploits such as his ride to victory at the 2017 USA BMX Grand Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Check that out below!
However, while Tucker was the current day rider in the spotlight, it was five former riders who were recognised for their significant contribution to the history of BMX in Australia.
The first to be inducted was Jamie ‘Hot Shoe’ Hales, who put Victoria on the Australian BMX map with his exploits in dominating the more experienced NSW and Queensland riders in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Hales won the first official national championships in 1981 and became the face of BMX in the country with guest appearances on national TV shows, feature articles in the biggest magazines and even found himself on Weet-Bix boxes. Hales was Australia’s first BMX superstar.
Weet-Bix and Hot Shoe, what a time for BMX (PIC: Australian BMX Hall of Fame)
Following Hot Shoe, it was ‘The Master’ of BMX, Leigh Egan who was presented as a hall of famer. An imposing figure on track, Egan was the best-known champion from the Shepparton BMX Club, which was formed in 1981.
From Shepparton to Suzuka, Japan, Egan hit the big time when he won the 17-years class and Open Men’s Class at the 1984 IBMXF World Championships. Effectively, he was our first ever elite men’s world champion. From there The Master took off, dominating the Aussie scene with three open men’s titles in a row frim 1985-87.
No clips, no worries. Egan on the hunt in 1986 (PIC: Australian BMX Hall of Fame)
Considered the toughest of them all, Egan is also regarded as the first rider to have created a dedicated and stringent BMX training program.
When Egan was dominating the pro ranks, lighting up the age groups was the third inductee of the night Paul Addams. From the moment he began as a 10-year-old in 1980, Addams caught the eye of factory sponsors and was the kid to beat. When you raced Paul Addams, you raced for second.
By 1983 GT Bicycles had jumped on board with Addams and sent him to the USA to improve himself as a rider. By 1988 Addams became the number one pro ranked rider in Australia by winning the title in the flood-stricken Alice Springs nationals that year. Pro titles in 1989 and 1990 cemented Addams among the best.
A sponsors dream, Paul Addams (PIC: Australian BMX Museum)
Of course, the sport of BMX is predicated on a movement of kids hitting the streets on their bikes and racing each other. BMX emanates a real do-it-yourself attitude. It’s little wonder then, that the fourth person inducted to the hall of fame was Wayne McIntosh – better known as ‘The King’. He won the very first, unofficial, Australian Open Men’s National Title in 1980 with his victory predating the BMX Australia organisation.
Macca, as he was affectionately known, was a trailblazer for Aussies eager to try their hand at the USA scene and became the first Australian to become an American BMX Association AA PRO rider.
A big game rider, The King graced the cover of BMX publications (PIC: BMX Torque)
A big game rider, Macca knew how to snatch a win when the prize money was large. While dominating the track was his forte, behind the scenes Macca helped form the Australian BMX Association and held some of the first ever coaching clinics in the country.
The final inductee of the evening was one of Australia’s most prolific international BMX winners, Natarsha Williams. Selected to the national team for the first ever UCI BMX World Championships in Brighton, United Kingdom, Williams proved herself a world beater by claiming the maiden women’s world championship in 1996.
In 1997 she won multiple world cup rounds and was crowned as the elite women’s world cup champion and then dominated the European Cup series for the next two years. In 1999 she won another world cup series and then in 2000 scored a second world title in Córdoba, Argentina.
Redline helped make Williams a household name on the world and USA stages (PIC: Australian BMX Museum)
That same year, she became Australia’s first female to become a full time BMX competitor in the USA with backing from sponsors Redline Bikes and Sun Rims. In her time on US soil she took out two NBL Pro Girl Championships. Nowadays Williams is again based in the USA, this time as the assistant cycling coach for the highly successful Marian University, Indianapolis.
With the Australian BMX Hall of Fame Gala Dinner now over, attention turns to the fourth round of the 2018 BMXA National Series at the Nerang BMX Club this weekend.