London 2012: BMX star Shanaze Reade talks riding and redemption

In the latest part of our weekly #olympicthursday  series profiling leading British hopes, BBC Olympic sports reporter Nick Hope speaks to three-time BMX World Champion Shanaze Reade.

Whether it be junior or senior, national or international, on track or dirt, prior to the Beijing Olympics Shanaze Reade had experienced little other than competitive success.

"I'd won so many races leading up to it that I couldn't see why I wouldn't win an Olympic gold medal," Reade told BBC Sport.

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I know what it's like to finish eighth at an Olympic Games so anything else is a bonus!

Shanaze Reade Beijing Olympian

But a final corner collision with eventual champion Anne-Caroline Chausson brought the Crewe-born rider crashing back down to earth.

While her limbs remained intact, the same could not be said of Reade's spirit.

"Afterwards I was thinking, 'No I don't want to do it, I don't want to feel the way that I felt through a bike race.'

"I felt depressed. I was down and I didn't want to think about or see the bike again because looking at it made me feel sick."

Quitting the sport was considered and she suffered another blow when Olympic champion and former mentor Jamie Staff said Reade needed to " grow up " if she was to avoid "screwing up" in London.

Reade might not have not agreed with all of his comments but she took them on board and significant changes have been made to the rider's programme since the last Games.

There is now a much greater emphasis on the mind.

"The biggest part of winning the Olympics is not about the form and the physical, it's about the mentality," revealed Reade.

Reade wins BMX Olympic test event in London

"Before [Beijing] I thought the split was 50/50, but I'd probably say 60/40 or even more on my 'mentals' now.

"Everybody who gets to the Olympic final is capable of winning, so it comes down to mental strength and have you got it to perform.

"Having a psychologist and a psychiatrist [Steve Peters] helps me look at things differently and I read a lot."

Reade has sought inspiration from Olympic greats such as Michael Johnson and Dame Kelly Holmes.

"Michael's book was amazing because he didn't just talk about all of the wins, he talked about his lows and how he pick himself up again.

"I can relate to that story because of what's happened to me and it's good just to read that you're not alone in any experience you have in life."

Olympic rival Pajon on Reade

Mariana Pajon and Shanaze Reade

"Riding with Shanaze Reade is amazing because she is the one I grew up wanting to be like. She is a really great athlete and I was proud to race with her at last year's World Championships. I just want to be around her and learn from her."

Marian Pajon, 2011 BMX world champion

Reade, who has also won two track cycling World Championship titles  alongside Victoria Pendleton, and only gave-up her ambitions of competing in both disciplines in London due to the increasing competitiveness of riders on the World BMX Tour, says her coach, Grant White, and family were also key to keeping her "in the game".

Mother Joanna gave birth to Shanaze at 17 and the rider has talked candidly about her father's lack of involvement in her life. 

Raised by her mum and grandparents in a low-income household in Crewe, Reade's mother went to extreme lengths to help her daughter's early career.

"I had won the Europeans in 2000 and I asked my mum if I could go to the Worlds in Argentina and she just couldn't afford it, but she promised I could go to the next one if I put the hours into training.

"I think she was hoping they were going to be in Europe, but they were in America and she was like, 'Oh'.

"She wrote to councils, local businesses and pulled everyone together to fund it.

"When you get older you appreciate it more and I do stuff for the police force and the council who always supported me - you have to give back to people who have helped you out."

Another reason why Reade took such pleasure in her emphatic victory at the BMX Olympic test event last year.

"It wasn't just about being the Olympic track, it was about the British crowd," she said.

Shanaze Reade

  • DOB: 23/09/88
  • Started BMX aged 10
  • Girls' national champion aged 12
  • Three-time girls' European champion
  • Two-time U-18 world champion (first aged 15)
  • Two-time senior track cycling world champion
  • Three-time senior BMX world champion
  • Reigning BMX Time-Trial world champion

"People had come all of that way to see BMX and I wanted to step up and perform for all those who had supported me.

"After what happened [in Beijing] I just wanted to say, 'I'm back and I'm still fighting to win in 2012.'"

"It was a very special moment [standing on the podium] with many friends and family in the crowd, so even if the Olympics don't go a certain way, it'll still be a nice moment to reflect on my career and say I experienced what it was like."

Reade's London 2012 preparations step up a gear at this weekend's World Championships  in Birmingham as she bids to retain the world time-trial title and reclaim the world super-cross crown she last won in 2010.

And having foreseen she would crash on the final bend in Beijing in a series of recurring nightmares ahead of the last Games, Reade now confesses to dreaming of winning in London later this year.

"An Olympic gold medal would just mean that I'm a complete package.

"I've won British, European and World Championships as a junior and as an elite, but I've never been Olympic champion.

"I still have this internal desire to get it in my home country so that, at the end of my career, I can think I achieved everything there was in the sport."

Can Shanaze Reade warm-up for the Olympic Games with victory at the World Championships in Birmingham this weekend? Get involved by adding #olympicthursday  to your tweets.

You can hear more from Shanaze Reade in Thursday's BBC Radio 5 Live's 'London Calling' programme at 1930 BST.