On track for Olympic dreams|Tom Ritzenthaler Jr., once an Olympic hopeful, building BMX track for Beijing games

SANDUSKY Sandusky native Tom Ritzenthaler Jr. is finally at the Olympics. Ritzenthaler is building the first Olympic B
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

Sandusky native Tom Ritzenthaler Jr. is finally at the Olympics.

Ritzenthaler is building the first Olympic BMX track for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

In November 1984, Ritzenthaler's dream to compete in Olympian road cycling was featured in a Register story.

Unfortunately, he didn't qualify.

But he's there now.

"What a dream come true," said Ritzenthaler in an e-mail from Beijing on Tuesday. "It is so much fun being here in China and seeing all the Olympic stuff come together."

BMX is making its debut as an Olympic sport in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In 1997, Ritzenthaler began building BMX tracks for the National Bicycle League.

Then in 2001, Ritzenthaler started working with Union Cycliste Internationale and has since been building BMX tracks all over the world.

BMX, or bicycle motocross, is a form of competitive off-road cycling using quick-handling, lightweight bicycles on specially designed dirt tracks.

Ritzenthaler, 38, son of Tom Sr. and Rosa Ritzenthaler, has been interested in cycling since his younger days.

According to Ritzenthaler, it all started with a race at the Sandusky Speedway on a Saturday morning 30 years ago.

In 1982, Ritzenthaler placed seventh in the first world race. He continues to race and have fun on his BMX bikes today.

"My mother and father always took me to the Norwalk Raceway BMX track," Ritzenthaler said.

His father operated the track gate there and his mother always cheered him on as he raced.

"Those days were some of the best days," he said.

Ritzenthaler worked at A&B Hobbies and Cycles after school during the mid-1980s, when the store was in Sandusky Plaza, where he sold and repaired bicycles. The store is now on West Washington Street.

Bill Johnson has owned A&B Hobbies and Cycles since 1979 and attests to Ritzenthaler's love of cycling.

"It didn't surprise me," Johnson said of Ritzenthaler's BMX success. "Tommy was always very dedicated to BMXing and bike riding."

Ritzenthaler has built more than 200 tracks in the United States and more than 100 tracks internationally. He said the best part of it all is being able to make a living doing what he loves.

"He had a dream and he stayed with it," said his father.

Ritzenthaler is contracted to build the BMX track for the 2012 Olympic games in London.

He lives in Reynoldsburg with his wife, Lauren, and three children. Ritzenthaler will visit the Sandusky area in early June.