It’s 5 pm on the Monday before Christmas 2014 in Canberra’s north.
Danielle Cole has just taken her daughter Paige, then just a toddler, out for one of her very first bike rides.
Paige’s older brother, the first to ride BMX in the family, accompanies them. His black and green bike blends with the tarmac and leafy trees of the quiet residential street, while Paige is dressed in a pink shirt and helmet, riding a matching pink bike without training wheels.
“It was literally straight on a push bike,” says mum Danielle.
Paige rides slowly but with barely a wobble to the street’s end in tow of her brother.
“Alright, go up and turn around,” mum Danielle says. “Come back this way.”
Paige hesitates for a moment while mum Danielle calls out words of encouragement, “Go! Push! Ride!”
Seconds later, Paige pushes off before veering off to the side of the street after a few metres.
“Don’t give her anything if she can’t do it,” her brother says to mum Danielle.
But she does it.
The next family video, filmed minutes later, shows Paige confidently riding and weaving down the street.
Danielle says she took Paige to a ‘come and try’ BMX day not long afterwards “and she fell in love with it from day one”.
Fast forward to 2023 and Paige, now aged 10, is ranked 2nd and 3rd in Australia across two BMX racing categories for her age group.
When I speak to Paige during her weekly coaching session, she had just won the ACT BMX championships for the fourth year running and came 7th racing against the boys.
But she has now turned her attention to training for the 2023 BMX world championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in August.
“My goal is to get to world number one,” she says with a wide smile. Danielle smiles too.
“I never imagined that we would go so far, especially for a girl, because it’s more of a male-dominated sport,” says Danielle.
“To see someone of her age compete for the third time now for Australia is a massive achievement.
“And to know that it’s Paige going to do that, I’m really proud.”
While Paige is zipping around the track in Canberra’s north on her purple, full-carbon Prophecy bike, I talk to Back Bone BMX owner and Paige’s coach Rhys ‘Rhysty’ Williams.
“I’ve been coaching Paige for probably the last three years, and I’ve seen her develop as a rider in leaps and bounds,” he says.
“She’s naturally gifted and she just has the determination to succeed, so as a coach, it’s quite easy.
“I’m just guiding her along, and it’s up to her how much effort she puts in, but she always comes with 110 per cent.”
Scotland will be the third time Paige dons green and gold to represent her country overseas.
“The amount of hard work that she puts in over the year and then you’ve got to bring it all together at the Australian title event to then go on and be selected,” says coach Rhysty.
“For a young rider, it’s a lot of pressure, and there’s a lot of competition, so as a coach, I’m super proud.”
But disaster struck at Paige’s past two world championships in Belgium (2019) and France (2022).
“When I first went to Belgium, I broke my arm before flying out,” Paige says.
“And then we got there after a long flight, and at practice, I crashed again, and the day after was race day.”
Paige did better in 2022 and made it through to finals but clipped someone’s back wheel during the race and finished 32nd.
This year Paige is being remotely coached by BMX Olympian Saya Sakakibara, who herself collided with another rider in the last semi-final at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
But Paige’s confidence is unbroken.
“Sometimes I can be a little bit nervous, but once you get out there on the track, it’s not that bad,” she says.
But she says despite their and coach Rhysty’s “fantastic” support, there’s still a long way to go towards the fundraising goal to send Paige to Scotland, even with the help of Paige’s sponsors, Ace Race Australia, Cranky & Sons – Plastering and Painting, and Briggs and Co Landscaping.
“We don’t get any funding through [the national cycling governing body], so it’s all back on the parents to try and raise money,” she says.
“So it all comes with a hefty cost, but at the end of the day, it’s actually all worth it to know that she’s representing her country.”
You can support Paige on her journey to Scotland here.