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Extreme Sports Star is Extremely Involved in Our Community

by on May 06, 2013 6:26 AM

I met a friend for coffee downtown at Saint’s Café last week. It was finals week so the place was packed; every table occupied by people chatting or studying or working on their laptops. As we sat there, drinking lattes and talking about his recent trip to Brazil, it dawned on me that other patrons probably had no idea that there was an international celebrity right there beside them, drinking coffee and chatting on Beaver Avenue.

My friend is Jamie Bestwick.

Jamie just returned from the X Games in Foz Do Iguacu, Brazil where he won his seventh consecutive gold medal in BMX vert competition. The X-Games, developed by ESPN in 1995 and co-broadcast on ABC, were developed to hit the “X Generation” demographic in both sports competition and related product and broadcast marketing. Competitors qualify from around the world in winter (ski, snowboard, snowmobile) and summer (BMX, motocross, skateboard, in-line skate) competitions that are televised live and attract world-wide audiences.

BMX vert, in layman’s terms, is trick bike riding in a half-pipe configuration with the sides of the ramps rising up dozens of feet. Jamie’s seven-peat win in Brazil and his eight consecutive Dew Tour wins means he has set the record for most medals in extreme/action sports history. He was recently nominated for the 2013 Laureus World Sports Award for Action Sportsperson of the Year.

Most of the people sitting around us had no idea that the guy in the Monster Energy hat, drinking a coffee, was an internationally renowned action sports athlete – ability, skill and fame - equal to Michael Phelps in swimming or Mohammad Ali in boxing.

I first met Jamie through his wife Kerry, who co-owns the PYP Studio in town, and works as a yoga and pilates instructor, and life coach. Kerry is a bit of a celebrity in her own right. She's developed an international following through her instructional yoga videos. I’m fairly new to yoga but several of my friends are fans of Kerry’s “hot yoga.” The temperature in the room is set to high, so you really work up a sweat -- as an additional cleansing process. Facing heat and humidity in Brazil, last month, Jamie attributed a lot of his success to his training at PYP’s hot yoga.

Jamie and Kerry are both transplants from England. Jamie used what I call a “down to earth” approach to his career, turning professional comparatively late in life. Although he started biking when he was 10, he didn’t enter his first X Games until he was 25. Unlike many of the young athletes of today who often turn pro before they can legally vote, in his early years, Jamie trained around his “real” job working as an airline mechanic. At 41, Jamie is not only the best in competition, he is often on the upper end of the age scale, a testament to his fitness and mental focus. In an industry that attracts mainly young men and women who seek both the rush of competition and the rush of gravity defying tricks and flips, Jamie remains at the top of his game. Ironically, Jamie says he is afraid of heights.

Why Centre County? How did an athlete and X Games star of this caliber end up in State College? The answer is nearby Camp Woodward. With an opportunity to train and occasionally step into the role of Gold Medal winner/instructor at Camp Woodward, State College is the perfect place for Jamie and Kerry to live and raise their son Sam.

Jamie and I met last week because I am interested in helping with some of his community initiatives. The Bestwick Foundation is a local 501-3C that has provided support for Coaches Versus Cancer, Centre Volunteers in Medicine, Tides, and other local community efforts. Jamie is very focused on giving back and being a part of this community. Jamie does more than just about put his fame or his money into a project. Jamie is a hands-on volunteer who guides the event planning team for his annual “Bike 4 Life” event and he’s working with some SCASD Grays Woods Elementary parents to plan a summer sports day for school families. Jamie and Sam are famous at Grays Woods for his demonstration in which he jumps his bike over the teachers. Whether it’s in the all-purpose room of an elementary school or next to the world famous waterfall in Foz Do Iguacu, Brazil, Jamie is setting records and serving as a role model through an active lifestyle that helps people and communities remain healthy.

Over coffee, we brainstormed the possibility of a Bestwick Foundation sponsored Extreme Sports Weekend for Wounded Warriors. With my connections to both the wounded warrior groups and program modification for people with disabilities and his connection to the action sports pros and state of the art facilities, we talked about a weekend of training, exercise and fun for those who have served their country. The average age of active duty military is approximately 27 years old with those on the front lines of combat often falling in the X and Y Generation demographic. Action sports such as biking or skateboarding have been recognized as a positive alternative to some of the adrenalin seeking activities that our servicemen and women seek post-deployment. We are looking to include more people in that conversation and perhaps launch a successful program.

As I walked to my car and Jamie to his Toyota truck (Jamie is sponsored by Toyota among others), I asked Jamie if I would see him on MTV or making guest appearances on reality shows or other “quick fame” programs. He was clear. “That isn’t who I am.”

Later this month, Jamie will be heading to Barcelona and eventually Munich for the next stops on the X Games tour and also Ocean City and San Francisco for Dew Tour events.

In the meantime, you can sometimes find him on Beaver Avenue, having a cup of coffee.

Watch Jamie Bestwick in action:

Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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