Bethanne Doppelt, a 49-year-old elementary school teacher, has one of the greatest stories from the world of sports, about self-improvement and never giving up.
Competitive bicycle motocross (BMX) is generally a younger person’s game, but it’s not exclusively theirs. Doppelt hopped onto her first BMX bike just two years ago at a Mother’s Day race and her assessment of what is required to win gets straight to the heart of the matter.
“The harder you pump, the faster you go,” said Doppelt in a June interview. “The lights go off and you’re coming down out of the gate and pedal to the hill. The winner is the person who gets around without falling first.”
The mother of four children and third-grade teacher at an economically challenged elementary school in Utah found a way to use the stress that naturally comes with these callings. “Being a school teacher and raising four teenagers, the stress release is amazing because you can take out your tension on the track.”
She picked up BMX riding for fun on that Mother’s Day, but quickly discovered she loved the sport and had the skills to race competitively. In just two years, Bethanne has established herself as one of the top racers in her age group, which is typically 45 and over.
It was in this age group that she qualified to ride in the UCI BMX World Championships Ride in London, England. When she got there, however, the group had been consolidated to a 30 and over group, which had Doppelt in the unenviable position of being nearly two decades older than some of her competition.
She fared well enough, all things considered, finishing in the middle of the group. However, she would have won top honors had the group been 45 and over as no other competitors in that age range finished higher than Doppelt in the competition.
How she finished in London is less important than what it takes to even compete at these levels. This was something Doppelt learned early in life, faced with the sudden loss of her mother at age nine. She can empathize with many of her students who also have hard lives, many coming from impoverished families and even broken homes.
“A lot of these kids have single parents, a lot have parents in jail. I lost my mom when I was 9. I had to get myself out of bed each day. I try to tell these kids, listen, you cannot depend on people in life,” said Doppelt. “If you want something in life, you’ve got to find it and figure out a way for how to get it.”
She considers this her motto, and puts her money where her mouth is. Not only is she a legit international competitor in a very aggressive sport, she can peddle a bike much faster than you might guess.
At an assembly held on the schoolyard of Redwood Elementary, Doppelt showed her students that if you try, you can do. She peddled her bike to a speed of 22 mile per hour in just 50 yards. Her whole point was to prove you can do something if only you’ll take the first stop to do it.
Now Bethanne is headed back to London for the Olympics, in hopes of bringing home the gold for Team USA, and we wish her all the best.