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Olympic BMX bronze medallist shares her love of sport with refugees

Some useful tips from the Olympic bronze medallist for Jackie Padah
Some useful tips from the Olympic bronze medallist for Jackie Padah

A group of refugees residing in Switzerland was introduced to BMX this week by one of the world’s best: Stefany Hernandez.

Olympic bronze medallist in the BMX in Rio last year and 2015 UCI World Champion, the Venezuelan athlete first arrived as a trainee at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland in 2012. On Monday, she welcomed a group of asylum seekers to her second ‘home’.

Although in the final phase of preparation for the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships in Rock Hill, USA, Stefany took time to give the visitors a tour of the UCI WCC and a short presentation of her BMX career.

 “Life is to be unstoppable. Limits are only in your head,” she repeated to her audience, who hailed from Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Although few of them had ever heard of BMX, they could not wait to get out onto the centre’s pump track under the watchful eye of Stefany, who gave them plenty of advice and beginner’s tips.

 “I really wanted to do this and I’m having so much fun,” said Stefany. “It’s just two hours of my time and it is so meaningful and fulfilling to share this moment with them and share my passion.

“They haven’t had an easy time. Sometimes life gives you a slap in the face but you have to try to come back.”

Stefany Hernandez with Ali Komail (Afghanistan)

The group of 15 refugees come from EVAM (Etablissement Vaudois d'Accueil des Migrants), one of the Swiss regional centres that welcomes immigrants seeking asylum. They were accompanied by Joël Bussy, one of the heads of CABES (Contacts Amitié Bible entre Etrangers et Suisses) and Geert Hendriks.

“We found that playing sport is a good way to connect and build friendships,” explained Geert Hendriks. “We started with football about three years ago, and Stefany wanted to work with refugees which was a great opportunity for us.”

The Venezuelan has a new group of fans, who will be following her performance at the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships from July 25 to 29.


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