Olympic medallist visits Rom Skatepark to inspire the next generation
- Credit: Chantelle Billson
A freestyle BMX rider who took home a bronze medal for Great Britain in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games revisited Rom Skatepark in Hornchurch to inspire the next generation.
Olympian Declan Brooks, the 25-year-old who has spent most of his life on bikes, was confirmed as Team GB’s only and first male BMX freestyle representative as the sport made its debut in the 2020 summer games.
He visited the site, which is the subject of a documentary called Rom Boys: 40 years of Rad, on August 23.
Spencer Smith, a member of the Rom Boys who handles the lease and funding of the skate park, said: “Having Declan come to Rom was truly inspirational.
“It’s left all the kids wanting to be the next in line to represent the country as Olympians.”
In an exclusive interview with the Romford Recorder, Declan spoke about his career, training regime and love of the “legendary” Rom Park.
Talking about his initial interest in the sport, Declan said: “I started when I was around nine, 16 years ago now, and my dad always loved it back in the 80s.
“Rom Skatepark was built back in the 70s and I went to Southsea Skatepark in Portsmouth - they were built at similar times - my dad took me down there and I loved it ever since, I got better and better and here we are today at Rom.”
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Specialising in freestyle BMXing, Declan said he loves the sport “so much because of the freestyle element”.
He added: “You can come to the skate park, there were no coaches back then, you got on your bike, tried something, you get your own style, and that is the freestyle element of it.
“It’s very thrilling. It’s great to watch for anyone that doesn't like or know about BMX - it’s an amazing community to be in, you come down here, see your friends, learn some tricks and go home, it’s great.”
For six months before the games, Declan said he was training at least 20 hours a week. That is four hours a day, five or six times a week, which Declan described as “quite intense”.
Reflecting on his relationship with Rom Skatepark, Declan said he has been five times before.
“Last time I came here quite a few years back now for the Rom Jams and days which are always super fun," he said.
“The history of this place, it has been about for a long time now, and I have a lot of friends from this area so it’s nice to come and see them, and it’s a legendary skatepark.”
For the last four years, Declan has been coached by Jamie Bestwick, who is an award-winning British BMX rider and, as Declan described him, a “legend” of the sport.
He adds: “He has done so much for us now and it has been really good.”
Offering out advice on starting in BMXing, Declan said: “When I first started, I was a quiet kid. I wasn’t an adrenaline junkie and I wouldn’t say I am still; I think you have to be dedicated, work hard, and you’ll get there.
“Dream big. Again, when you start you don’t need to have any sort of talent, just hard work and dedication and you will get there.”
Winning the bronze medal was “amazing”, he said: “The goal was to get a medal - any medal. It was go there, do everything that I think I can do and hopefully that will be enough.
“This is definitely a career highlight and definitely the best achievement I have done, and now it’s on to the next one in Paris.”
Declan hopes to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, but said other goals include world championships and other events.