Spanish BMX rider Viki Gomez may be a freestyling champion but promoting the sport is just as important, as Alvin Thomas finds out.
It all starts when I’m getting a caffeine rush from a coffee outlet in Oman Avenues Mall.
An otherwise well-ordered crowd suddenly goes into overdrive and starts rushing towards the viewing galleries. Without any haste, I do the same, and what I see next is something unimaginable – almost unreal, actually.
It’s Viki Gomez – the two-time European X-Games Champion – in all his glory, freestyling on his prized BMX bike.
People around the world pay hundreds of dollars to watch this man freestyle, and here he is in our backyard performing for the crowds.
I want an interview with him, and his local PR company (Axis Events) agrees and even finds us a nice, quiet spot in a restaurant to do so.
I begin by asking Viki about his early days, to which he laughs and corrects me, saying: “Actually my name is Jorge Gomez but I was given the nickname ‘Viki’ because I resembled [with his long hair] Vicky from the cartoon Vicky the Viking [a German cartoon].”
Of course, today, the young BMX rider is better known as Viki Gomez – the champion freestyler. But his rise to glory took years of “practice and determination” to achieve.
“I was born in Madrid. And my fascination for BMX grew when I went to the theatre for the first time at the age of eight,” Viki says. “It was to watch the Australian film, BMX Bandits – a popular film in Spain – in the 80s.
“I was completely in love with it. And I even had my own BMX then – as did most children in Spain at that time.
“I didn’t do any stunts then because I didn’t think it would be possible.
“However, it was only when I saw a bunch of kids doing freestyle in the Buen Retiro Park that I believed that it could be done.
“Over time, I became friends with them. I started with basic tricks: standing on the bike or simply lifting your bike with your body weight. It soon became my hobby, and I would go into the parks and practise all night long.
“My biggest challenge was getting a BMX bike. They were so expensive – they can cost up to US$2,000 (RO770). So, it took a few years for me to build one. I would get one piece for my birthday and on Christmas I would get another one. And in two years my cheap BMX bike became one of the best in Spain.”
And unsurprisingly, Viki’s determination earned him an opportunity to gain the qualifications for entering the X-Games (an annual extreme sports event hosted by ESPN).
“In the beginning it was all about convincing my parents that this was something I wanted to do. And so, after high school, I asked my parents to support me for one year to travel across the US for competitions.
“Seeing my determination, they agreed. But it still took two to three years for them to see that it was working. At the X-Games qualifications, I was up against more than 100 riders from all over the world. But I knew my strengths and weaknesses and decided to remain original and not copy any other freestylers,” says Viki.
“My hard work and skills paid off and I was soon selected to take part in the competition. For the first two years, I was always in the top 10,” he says, adding that it was that prize money he used to fund other competitions.
To date, Viki has taken first place in numerous competitions. He is currently the Professional Elite BMX Flatland Rider, in Madrid, Spain; the world champion of BMX Flatland World Championship (2016, 2015, 2010) and a two time European X-Games Champion, among other titles.
However, Viki’s career doesn’t end there. Recently, he organised his own freestyling event with flamenco music (an art form based on the various folkloric music traditions of southern Spain) back in his hometown.
“We did a dance, and we had live flamenco musicians and dancers, and as they danced to the tunes, I freestyled with my bike. It was very successful and many said that it was amazing too.
“I am very connected with the music,” he tells me. “I believe in reaching out to audiences with music and other art forms. And that event was received well by both the kids and the elderly. It was a very cultural thing.”
Viki also does shows outside various opera houses in Europe, where he teams up with local musicians.
“My next challenge is to find a way to say a story. It will be synchronising my moves with music and dance,” he says, before adding that he is in talks with the Spanish dancer Rafael Amargo.
He is also using his sport to reach out to audiences, and break the negative stereotypes about BMX.
“We are always judged as street kids with no standards. It happens everywhere, and I always tell the riders – because we ride in the streets and public places – you should always behave well.
“How you behave is how the people look at the sport. I am not saying that I haven’t been mischievous in the past but when a parent sees you misbehaving, they will even stop their kids from buying a BMX.
“It is important to be an ambassador for your sport and help bring that up.”
He ends our interview by talking about how Oman can be a great location for BMX riding.
“It is my fourth time in Oman. I have been to Muscat and Salalah, and was here for the Tour of Oman. We did some shows with them. At the end of the day it is all about bikes,” he says.
“BMX is still unknown in Oman and is growing slowly. But the kind of terrain you have here is perfect for such sports, and I will definitely be coming back and one day and hope to find and hone talented BMX freestylers.”
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