The USA’s Cory Coffey wears a lot of hats: trailblazer, mother, two-times BMX street world champion, and more. But the 40-year-old juggles all her roles with style and is still competing on the biggest stages as a true legend of her sport. Olympics.com spoke to her about starting out as the only female at the BMX park, breaking new ground in her sport and setting an example for the next generation.
The word legend gets thrown around a lot in sports. But what else can you say about Cory Coffey, the USA’s BMX pioneer who began competing before most other females had taken up her sport?
Coffey was one of the originators on the BMX scene. She was the first woman to pull off a backflip in competition and remains the reigning two-time women’s BMX street world champion – a competition that hasn’t taken place since 2005.
Now 40, Coffey is still mixing it with the best in international competition, including being named on Team USA for the upcoming World Championships that takes place between 9 and 13 November 2022.
“When I first started competing I would compete against the guys, and then in the early 2000s we finally got our first women’s class,” she revealed in an interview with Olympics.com at the June Madrid Urban Sports event in Spain.
“But it’s amazing now to come to an event and see lots of women from all over the world, and now sometimes we even have semis there are so many women.
“I just hope that the sport keeps on growing and we’re examples to all the other women that are out there that wanna come and join BMX.”
Seeing the value of a pioneering legacy
It was 2001 when Coffey became the first woman to perform a backflip in competition. And while the sport has continued to evolve, with daring women on the circuit pulling off ever-more complex tricks, it still gives Coffey pleasure to see the legacy of that day.
“It’s pretty crazy to think that I did the very first backflip for women and it’s pretty cool to come out to these contests and see all the next generation of girls getting scared to send backflips,” she said.
“It’s kind of a cool honour to think that I started that for the women, but it’s really cool to see everybody doing that and to know that’s a pretty crazy benchmark for people to do.
“Now we have people doing double flips these days, but it’s cool, I’m stoked for it.”
Coffey is now in a position where she can look back on her career through the eyes of someone who has been there and pretty much seen it all. And she has some wise advice for the new generation making their way in the sport today.
“For the young’uns that are out there that are up and coming in our sport, my number one advice for all of them is to remember to have fun when you’re out there,” she explained.
“It’s really hard when you’re at a contest or a World Cup or an event, and you get a little nervous, but you have to remember to relax and have fun because at the end of the day, that’s what BMX is about.”
Juggling BMX life on the road with motherhood
Another way that Coffey has been a trailblazer is the fact she balances her jet-setting career in BMX with life as a mother. Not only has she managed to stay at the very pinnacle of her game, she has done that while raising a family.
And in fact, BMX freestyle has become a symbol for her of what her children – and women in general – can achieve in life.
“I’m stoked to be a mum,” she explained. “I’ve got three little girls of my own and I’m just trying to show them a cool way to live their life and have fun doing it.”
And her advice for the younger generation doesn’t stop with the BMX lifestyle. There are other ways in which she says they can ensure they make the most out of their careers and enjoy longevity in the world of BMX.
“I think to give you longevity in the sport, you have to eat right, you have to train right and you got to just take care of yourself,” she said. “And that’s that’s one thing that I’ve kind of learned is you can’t eat bad food, [you have to eat] good food, getting lots of rest, stay hydrated. But yeah, I think that that’s the healthy thing is keeping your body healthy and fit.”
When Great Britain’s Charlotte Worthington won gold last year in the first-ever Olympic BMX freestyle competition at Tokyo 2020, it was a sign of just how far the sport had come.
Coffey has been through every stage of its evolution. And from being the only girl at the skatepark to being surrounded by other women aiming to push the boundaries of this exciting urban sport, she sees the Olympics as a way of inspiring more young people to dream big.
“I was super stoked when BMX freestyle made it into the Olympics and it was amazing to be able to watch,” said Coffey, who saw her compatriot Hannah Roberts claim silver at the last Olympic Games.
“I personally grew up watching the Olympics as a child and I used to watch diving, gymnastics…
“But now it’s so cool because kids have skateboarding, surfing, BMX and it’s amazing that as a kid you can look up and think, ‘I can be an Olympian one day’. I think that’s pretty rad.”