Connecticut 8-year-old has ‘true grit’ for dirt-bike racing

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EAST WINDSOR, Conn. (AP) — Madison Kazimir has raced dirt bikes in stadiums, crisscrossed the country for tournaments, and has her sights set on even bigger prizes.

And she’s only 8.

Madison, who got her first quad at 3 and started dirt biking at 5, is ideally suited for the racetrack, according to parents, Joe Kazimir and Joanne Pinheiro.

“She’s that kid that can’t sit still,” Kazimir said. “I love that that’s a part of her. She’s always doing something.”

“She’s the first one in the gym,” Pinheiro added. “And she’ll be the last one out too.”

At the Kazimir-Pinheiro home, it’s easy to forget that the Broad Brook second-grader isn’t already in the pros. The family has built a well-worn, quarter-mile dirt-racing track in their expansive backyard, where Madison trains several days a week.

To Madison, the commitment doesn’t seem extraordinary.

“It’s my favorite thing,” she said.

Though there is an established dirt biking circuit in the Northeast, many participants hail from the sunny South and Southwest, where warmer temperatures allow participants to train outside all year long.

To compensate, Madison puts in hours of off-bike training, with a good number of them spent at Synergy Massage and Fitness in South Windsor.

Owner and trainer Jason Golub says Madison’s drive is incredible considering her age.

“She’s in classes with kids as old as 13, and she’s not trying or struggling to keep up with them,” Golub said. “They’re trying to keep up with her.”

Synergy focuses on what Golub calls “functional training,” an all-around workout that includes core strength building, which is critical for racing.

“I see a girl who is amazing for her age,” he said. “She’s excited about getting better.”

Elissa Daniele, who teaches physical education at Broad Brook Elementary School, sees the same in her classes, where Madison excels.

“When you talk to her, you can hear her passion,” Daniele said. “She has true grit.”

And Madison’s enthusiasm extends to all things active, according to Daniele.

“She’s constantly on,” she said. “I’m grateful to have a student like her in class. And I’m proud of her.”

When asked about her favorite athletes and role models, Madison lists a who’s who of international motorcross and supercross pros, including marquee names like Chad Reed, Eli Tomac, and her favorite, Ryan Dungey.

She got a taste of her heroes’ spotlight in January, when the family traveled to San Diego, California, for the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge at the Padres’ Petco Park. Along with about 15 other kids, she signed autographs, posed for pictures, and took to the track at halftime for a race in front of a roaring, 40,000-strong crowd.

Madison is perhaps too young to have formed an opinion about being a girl in a heavily male sport, but her parents recognize the rarity.

“It’s like seeing a female quarterback in the NFL,” Kazimir said. “You don’t see it. But she’s there and, honestly, she’s kicking the boys’ butts.”

Pinheiro admits Madison gets a lot of attention at races; her long blonde hair streaming out from under her helmet gives her away.

“She gets a lot of high-fives,” Pinheiro said. “All the older girls love her. They love what she’s doing.”

The prevailing theory is that, growing up around her dad’s dirt bikes and quads, racing was in the cards for Madison too. Kazimir has been riding since he was 12 and even won an amateur championship in 1990. Though he never pushed Madison to follow after him, he said, he’s grateful for the special link they now share.

Unbelievably, Madison has other outlets for her boundless energy, including skiing, soccer, and gymnastics.

But dirt biking remains central, not just to Madison, but to the family as well.

Almost every weekend, the family is away at regional competitions, which are held throughout New England and New York. It’s a tight-knit culture where familiar faces become like family, Kazimir said.

“All our friends are there,” Pinheiro said. “It’s very family-oriented.”

When asked about her favorite part of racing, Madison has an answer in the barrel. “The jumps,” she said.

And then she thinks a little more.

“And my friends I get to see,” she added.

Despite their immersion in the racing world, Madison’s parents say they want their daughter racing only as long as she finds it fun. Until that day though, they’ll do everything they can to help her do her best.

“A lot of parents push,” Kazimir said. “But she pushes us.”

___

Information from: Journal Inquirer, http://www.journalinquirer.com

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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