Harriet Burbidge-Smith quits school to chase BMX dream

Harriet Burbidge-Smith. Photo: Katherine GriffithsCanberra BMX racer Harriet Burbidge-Smith admits she has made a ”huge gamble” to quit school and chase her world championship and Olympic Games dreams.

The 17-year-old, who has been labelled a Caroline Buchanan clone, will get a close view of the reigning world titleholder at this weekend’s national titles in Shepparton.

Burbidge-Smith will aim to wrap up the national series title on Thursday before she lines up in the Junior Elite category on Saturday.

Her focus will then turn to competing professionally in the US and Europe and putting up a strong showing in her last event as a junior at the world championships in Amsterdam.

Burbidge-Smith left the final year of school at Dickson College to be a full-time BMX racer and has designed her own range of clothing.

She understands the enormous risk she is taking, but believes it is something she has to do to reach the pinnacle of her sport.

“When I left college it was a huge gamble, that’s everyone’s back- up and what everyone looks at when you go for a job, and I was willing to give up everything and put it on the line,” Burbidge-Smith said.

“That just shows the commitment I’m giving to it.

“I’m a very determined personality, in terms of I don’t see any grey, I either go for it 100 per cent or I don’t go for it at all.

”I didn’t want 90 per cent BMX and 10 per cent school, I wanted to be 100 per cent BMX because that’s what my dream is.”

The dual world champion commissioned a professional photo shoot at the start of the year for her website as a way to promote herself to potential sponsors.

Burbidge-Smith has trademarked the ”Haz” name for her business and splits her days between training and working on her laptop.

“You can be the fastest rider out there, but if you’re not promoting yourself and you can’t talk well, you’re not going to get very far,” she said.

“You’re not going to make a living just off riding your bike.

“That’s what sponsors and investors look for.

“In the last six months I have really made that transfer to being a professional athlete.

”It’s your job 100 per cent, that’s how you’re going to pay the bills and have a house, so you’ve got to take it serious.”

Having already been in the sport for 13 years, it’s easy to see why there are comparisons between Burbidge-Smith and fellow Canberran Buchanan.

Burbidge-Smith is flattered by it, but at the same time she wants to show she is her own competitor and is focused on representing Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“Caroline’s an amazing rider and an amazing person, so people just assume because I’m following the same path as her that I’m copying her,” she said. “We’ve got such similar interests and we work together with our ideas.

“She’s a world champion and has been to the Olympics, so if I can be compared to her as a rider then that’s amazing.”

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