Connor Fields has big dreams.
While his friends are focused on hanging out and preparing for college, Connor is training to become an Olympian.
Connor, a Green Valley High School senior and racer on the Free Agent BMX team, is working to go to the 2012 Olympics for bicycle motocross (BMX). He is on a list of 15 candidates, but only three will be chosen to represent the United States.
"I’m shooting for the 2012 Olympics," Connor says. "It’s a long way away, and I still have a lot of work to do, but that’s my goal right now."
Connor has an open invitation to the Olympic Training Center from the Olympic coach. Mike Fields, Connor’s father, says that his son’s schedule is different from most of the other racers who train there because he is younger and also because most of the other kids are home-schooled.
Nick Koehler, a friend of Connor’s and a freshman at Beckman High School in Orange County, Calif., met the racer at a national competition four or five years ago. Koehler says he believes that with Connor’s dedication to the sport, he will definitely get to the Olympics.
"I know it’s his dream, and he won’t stop until he achieves it because that’s just the kind of person he is," Koehler says.
Connor says he hopes that with a little hard work, he can be one of those chosen three. The "hard work" he talks about is daily exercise.
"I go to the track three or four times a week and the gym six days a week," Connor says. "I ride my bike every day. I do more than three hours of training each day."
Koehler says Connor works harder than any other amateur racer and that Connor’s drive and attitude have contributed to his success on the track.
"He spends a lot of time training, which has made him stronger and better at his sport," Koehler says. "He is respectful to everyone at the track and talks to all the little kids who look up to him."
Although Connor is aiming for world recognition at the Olympics, he already is a prominent name in BMX.
"I went to Colombia for the Pan-American Championships, which is the South American and North American championships," Connor says. "I took first place in my category (junior men)."
Mike Fields says that his son is younger than many of the Olympians, but he continues to excel among them.
"There was a huge event in San Diego a little while ago where he qualified third," Fields says. "He beat something like 30 Olympians, including the bronze and silver medalist (from the 2008 Olympics). It was a huge deal for a just-turned 17-year-old kid."
Connor says he typically competes in 15 to 20 events a year, which span from January to October. These take place in Las Vegas, California and other states and countries. Connor will be going to Spain in March.
In addition to this and training, Connor also balances high school. On a normal school day, Connor says he does not get home to do homework until about 9 at night. Many times, he also has extra work to do because of BMX.
"If I travel to other countries or states, and I miss school days, all the makeup work really adds up," Connor says. "Sometimes it gets hard to juggle both (school and BMX) at the same time."
Fields believes that school must be paramount in his son’s life, because he can only be an athlete for so long.
"My deal has always been that it’s school and education first, because every athlete is just one accident away from being a regular person," Fields says. "We’ve always had very high expectations for him in school."
BMX has an appeal to Connor that is not found in many other high school sports, such as football or baseball.
"I like that it’s an individual sport, and you don’t have to rely on teammates," Connor says. "It’s all about me, and if I don’t win, it’s my fault."
Connor did not begin BMX expecting to be an Olympic contender; he started it for fun.
"I loved to ride my bike when I was a little kid, so my mom did some research on stuff I could do," Connor says. "When I was 7, she found BMX, and I’ve never stopped since."
His mother found BMX racing on a flier in a bike shop, and then Connor gave it a go.
"We took him out there one day on a beat up, old, really nasty, rusty, heavy, not racing bike," Fields says. "He went out and tried it. He wasn’t very good at it, but he really liked it a lot. He tried it a few times and didn’t do nearly as well as he wanted to ever, and he got really upset about it. That’s when we really realized how competitive he was and how much he wanted to win stuff."
After Connor’s parents recognized that he really enjoyed racing his bike, they decided to take it one step further.
"We made a deal that after a few months, if he was really committed to doing this, that we would get him a nice bike," Fields says. "That’s what happened. We got him a nice bike, and he won the national final that year. It was crazy and totally unexpected."
What pushes Connor to continue to ride his bike is his love of the sport.
"When I do it, I feel free," Connor says. "Nothing else in the world matters. It’s my happy place."R-Jeneration