Olympic BMX cyclist Kyle Bennett, the first bicycle motocross rider to qualify for the three-person United States men's team when the sport made its debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, died Sunday in a car accident in eastern Texas. He was 33.
Bennett died in a single-vehicle crash in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston, according to a statement from USA Cycling, which sanctions competitive cycling events in the U.S. No other details about the accident were available.
A three-time BMX cycling world champion, Bennett won an automatic spot on the first U.S. BMX Olympic team.
He was a gold medal contender entering the Olympics but failed to make the final when he dislocated his shoulder in a heat.
"Kyle was a pioneer in Olympic BMX and an inspiration to those of us that knew him," USA Cycling Chief Executive Officer Steve Johnson said in a statement.
Born in Conroe on Sept. 25, 1979, Bennett was raised by his mother, Donnell Purse, and his grandparents after his father died when he was 7.
His grandfather, who owned a motorcycle shop, encouraged Bennett to race bikes. At 9, he competed in his first national championship, in Memphis, Tenn. His stepfather, John Purse, was a professional rider who helped trained him.
Bennett turned pro in 1998 when he was 18 and graduated from Conroe High School.
A three-time national champion in the National Bicycle League, he went on to win International Cycling Union world championships in 2002, 2003 and 2007.
Nicknamed "Butter" for his smooth riding style, Bennett was an enthusiastic advocate of his sport who dreamed of building a training center for youths.
"I would love for BMX to be a household name," he told the Houston Chronicle in 2008. "It's such an easy sport to get involved in. All you need is a bike, long pants, a shirt and a helmet."
Bennett's survivors include his mother, fiancee and a young daughter.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times