USD Magazine, Fall 2003

GRAD GAINS FAME AS BMX RACER L ike most college students, Jason Richardson '97 held down a job while he

"I knew if I stopped school it would be hard for me to go back," Richardson says. ''I'm big on finishing what I start." It often was difficult balancing school and sport, as the BMX racing season lasts almost year– round, but Richardson says he's never been comfortable placing limits on himself. "I've never done just one thing," he says."After I finish racing I don't think I'll do just one thing." Richardson became interested in the sport when he was 6 years old. Living in New Jersey with his mom, he and his brother often

attended school. Unlike most students, Richardson's occupa– tion entailed making a name for himself as one of the foremost BMX bike racers in the sport. And instead of earning acco– lades as employee of the month, Richardson garnered recognition as I994's BMX world champion from the International Cyclists Union. Almost a decade later, he's still ranked among the sport's top competitors, consis– tently earning top IO finishes in national and international com-

bicycle motor cross, is a grueling sport in which riders race around a dirt and asphalt track populated with turns and berms. No track is the same, and riders can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. The sport debuted in 1974 and peaked in popularity during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Interest waned a bit in the 1990s, but a surge in extreme sports and the popularity of the X-Games, as well as the inclu– sion of the sport in the 2008 Olympics, renewed interest in BMX. Now, about 675,000 peo– ple participate in the sport nationwide. Richardson began taking the sport seriously, he says, when at 12 years of age he won a local competition in New Jersey.The next year, he moved to Las Vegas to live with his father, and it was there he really started to sharpen his skills.At 17, he turned pro. "I've always liked what I did

but I just never thought about doing it for a living," he says, adding that BMX racers earn anywhere from $12,000 to $130,000 a year, which includes prize money from races, bonuses and endorsements. Richardson always thought he'd end up with a career in business, but was somewhat intimidated by the math require– ments that come with being a business major. So he majored in philosophy at USD instead, and later earned an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix.Wh ile he doesn't wear a suit to work or punch a time clock, he's always been careful to manage his career as if it were a business. " If you want to be successful at anything, you have to have

Jason Richardson '97 shows the moves that made him a BMX Champion. petitions. At the 2003 X-Games, the Olympics of extreme sports, he placed fifth in the downhill BMX competition.

made trips to Las Vegas to visit their father.There was a BMX track near the skateboard park where his brother hung out. "I just started doing it because it was something to do," Richardson says. But it's not a sport everyone can do. BMX, shorthand for

Despite his success as an ath– lete, however, it never occurred to him to skip school and focus solely on racing.



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