Hitting the ground arched around a half-circle berm, her body nearly parallel to the ground, 9-year-old BMX enthusiast Lola Jonjevic knows when to pull her bike back up before she zooms past the rest of the field.
Her signature move has earned the name, “Jonjevic Slide” from other Kansas City bicyclists.
“I like going fast,” she said. “But my favorite part is going low in the turns. … I adjust my speed, it’s kind of like math.”
It might sound simple, but it’s a formula Lola has worked on over the span of 300 competitions. This week, she will put the Jonjevic Slide to the ultimate test when she competes in the UCI BMX World Championships in Rock Hill, S.C.
She joins seven other Kansas City area bikers who will compete at the World Championships, including Millie Morgan (5 years old), Miles Hontz (5), Kayden Bruns (6), Eli Staton (7), Gavin Guadagnano (7), Braxton Miller (8) and Kevin Fain (32).
Lola first hopped on a bike when she was 18 months old. She remembers going home after preschool and practicing her speed and balance.
“For an hour, I would get on my starter and go up and down the block, up and down the block,” Lola said. “Whether it was rain or shine, unless it was pouring rain, I’d do it anyway.”
As her interest in biking increased, so did Lola’s skill. She has attended supercamp training sessions led by some of the sport’s biggest names including Elliot McGrath, Adrian Sanders and Jamie Windholz.
Lola competes with other local riders every week at the Raytown BMX Park. She qualified for the World Championships after finishing in first place at the Carolina National in April.
But her training isn’t limited to the bike. Lola begins her day with morning sprints and often speed skates to help increase her agility. Her mother, PaKou, wanted Lola to find a passion at a young age, but she also wants her daughter to remember the bigger picture when she puts on her Team USA tracksuit this week.
“This led to a deeper conversation about what it means to be a good ambassador for the United States,” PaKou said. “How to best embody the type of generosity, kindness, and warmth that should be exhibited by the host team of an international race.”
The UCI World BMX Championships will be held on American soil for the first time since 2001, when it was held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. The eight Kansas City area representatives are part of a Team USA contingent of 1,086 American racers.
Lola, who celebrated her ninth birthday on Monday, often competes against boys and older riders, but she said she doesn’t think about who is racing next to her. Bringing home a trophy would be a nice present for Lola, but she doesn’t plan on changing her mind-set this week at the World Championships.
“It doesn’t matter who wins,” Lola said. “It just matters that I’m the one who’s working and they’re the one who’s also working. Competition brings out the best of each other, and that’s what matters most is making other people better.”