Three collarbone breaks in 18 months is nobody’s definition of fun.
Unfortunately, that’s what Teigen Pascual has dealt with as of late. BMX is a rough-and-tumble sport that can take a toll on the body, especially when you pursue it at the highest levels. Some are fortunate enough to avoid serious or repetitive injury early in their careers, but she hasn’t been one of them.
Nobody would have blamed Pascual had she walked away from competitive riding in light of her history of ailments. Yet the Squamish native is far from done, and her perseverance has thus far been rewarded with a ninth-place result at the Santiago 2023 Pan Am Games.
So what’s driving Pascual forward, in spite of what could have held her back?
“Just the fact that you can't ever really reach a limit with the sport,” she said. “I think you're always trying to learn something new, always trying to gain something. After the amount of times I’ve been broken, [someone else] might have given up or thought BMX wasn’t for them, but there’s just always more in it for me—another level I can reach, another skill I can learn, another comeback.
“I’m not where I want to be, so I need to keep going and see if I can reach that point.”
Pascual does have Olympic dreams, though she acknowledges that Paris 2024 may be out of reach due to her recent injury-related layoffs. Instead she sets her sights on the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, hoping along the way to reach a new level of confidence on her bike.
The Pan Am Games represented a step in the right direction. They were Pascual’s first major international sporting event, and she appreciated taking in the atmosphere as nearly 470 other Canadians showcased their skills in various disciplines. She celebrated BMX teammate Molly Simpson’s silver medal and roomed with Vancouver Island mountain biker Jenn Jackson, who won the ladies’ cross-country race.
Pascual feels that ninth place isn’t reflective of her full potential, but is grateful for her time in Chile nonetheless.
“I went into it just as a learning experience, so I didn't really have many expectations for myself,” she explained. “Overall, I think it was good…learning new things and new situations, and it was very fun.”
The Squamolean discovered the joy of biking at six years old when she followed some childhood friends onto the track—a fairly ubiquitous turn of events for a youngster in the Sea to Sky area. She entered her first race shortly afterwards, crashed twice in one lap, and promptly signed up for another.
Growing up, Pascual rubbed shoulders with many of today’s local mountain bike stars, including Jackson Goldstone, Finn Iles and the Jewett brothers: Jakob and Dane. There was considerable cross-pollination between BMXers and downhill riders back then, with many kids doing both to develop a balanced skill set. As time passed, they went their separate ways to focus on different things.
Rare is a world-class contest that puts all the bike-related disciplines in one place, but that’s what happened in Glasgow this August at the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships. Pascual wasn't able to compete there, but hopes to see more such events in the near future.
From Squamish to Switzerland
In order to reach her lofty aspirations, Pascual knew she needed to make a change. That’s why she’s been living in Aigle, Switzerland for the last seven months, in the vicinity of the UCI World Cycling Centre. It was an idea originally broached by Pascual’s mom, Amber, and it’s been paying dividends so far.
“BMX is so big in Europe,” she said. “They have a super good track here, and they brought in a new coach. His name’s Twan van Gendt. It’s made a world of difference: we've been focusing more on skills and perfecting the basics a little bit more so we can work from there. I've seen a huge difference in my riding and overall confidence on track.”
That makes sense, given how van Gendt is not just any coach. The 31-year-old Dutchman is a three-time Olympian and the 2019 BMX world champ.
Pascual wrapped up her season with second place at a small indoor event in France, and she’s taking a breath before a front-loaded follow-up tour. Nearly all of next year’s World Cup races (including the World Championship) will take place from January to June, ahead of the Paris Olympics—an itinerary that could take Pascual to Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the Netherlands in six months.
It’s safe to say that the resilient Squamolean is up to the challenge.