BMX Freestyle rider Natalya Diehm sets sights on Paris and beyond 

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Life after competition is something all athletes need to consider at some stage in their career. For BMX Freestyle rider Natalya Diehm, 25, that moment came after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when she was forced out of action for 15 months with an ACL injury.

It was the catalyst for the three-time national champion to come up with a plan for the day she decides to retire. One thing was for certain – she wanted to stay in the sport.

Fast forward to February 2023 and Diehm has become the first person in Australia to attain a BMX Freestyle Development Coach qualification with AusCycling and the Queensland Academy of Sport.

“It's always been in the back of my mind what I'll do when I retire from sport, especially after Tokyo 2020 while I was out with an ACL injury,” she said.

“I did a lot of brainstorming, and all I kept coming back to was that BMX is where my passion is.

“I knew coaching would be something I'd love to do for many reasons. I want to continue to see the sport grow nationally, inspire kids and make a difference.”

Diehm started riding when she was eight years old. She rode her bike to and from school, about 15 minutes each way. One day, on her way home, she noticed kids doing tricks at the skatepark. She decided to join them.

“I instantly fell in love with it, going there everyday after school and all day on the weekends,” she said.

Since then, Diehm has won three national titles, won the inaugural Oceania Championships, and finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics when BMX Freestyle made its Olympic debut.

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Diehm won the national title in 2020.

While she still has Olympic aspirations of her own, the new coaching qualification will allow Diehm to help find and develop the future Olympians of the sport.

“As BMX Freestyle only debuted in Tokyo, there have been no development programs ever put into place – only high performance. So, currently, this is my job: to trial and error on how BMX Freestyle will move forward in the future and how we'll get our next Olympic athletes,” she said.

“This is something I get to create without a blueprint of what it should look like, all while working closely with the QAS and AusCycling to help me along the way.”

It’s in its early stages, but Diehm’s work is already underway.

“We are currently going through our first cohort of talent-ID kids aged from nine to 19, which is super exciting. This will go for three months in the lead-up to our National Championships on March 24 and 25 on the Gold Coast.

“From there, we will select kids to join our 12-month program and undergo our second cohort of the three-month program. The future is looking bright for BMX Freestyle in Australia.”

And after a long recovery, Diehm herself will be returning to competition at the end of March as she sets her sights on Paris 2024.

“Olympic qualifying for Paris has already begun for BMX Freestyle, so every competition counts for me here on in. My first competition will be in May in Montpellier, France. It is a quick turnaround time from when I'm back on the bike, but I believe that I can do it.” 

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