Felicia Stancil jumps during the Women's BMX semifinal on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
TOKYO — When BMX racer Felicia Stancil qualified for her first Olympic Games, her dad booked a hotel. He never gave up that reservation, even as travel restrictions mounted. Finally, the hotel reached out to him.
“They’re like, ‘You’re from America you can’t come, sorry,’” Felicia Stancil said.
Jamie Stancil never gave up never gave up hope. When it comes to his daughter, he never does.
A former pro BMXer himself, Jamie is his daughter’s “biggest fan,” she says. He taught her the sport as a kid growing up in the north suburbs of Chicago. He had a front row seat to an amateur career that saw Felicia win her first national as a 6-year-old, then her first world title three years later. Now living in Indianapolis, she still hears from dad just about every day.
He wants to know about her training. And he’s pretty pumped up about her prospects at the Paris Games in 2024.
“I’m like, I still need to get through this one!” Stancil said Friday, her first Olympics having only wrapped up just an hour earlier.
Making her Olympic debut this week, Stancil advanced through the heats on Thursday, then made her move on a muggy Friday morning at Tokyo’s Ariake Urban Sports Park.
Following a short rain delay, Stancil posted the top cumulative score in her semifinal, when each group of eight riders completes three races on a back-and-forth course that alternates between flowing jumps and sharp, banked turns.
A little while later in the winner-take-all final, Stancil rounded the last 180-turn with the medalists in her sight. She crossed the finish line in the same position, a blank expression across her face.
“Fourth,” she recalled thinking. Her next thought was an expletive.
Coming so close in such an unpredictable 45-second race is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, she was right there. On the other hand, she was right there.
A little move here, a sharper turn there. Every tiny little detail could be the difference.
“I definitely wanted to grab a medal for our country,” she reflected afterward. “But this is my first Olympics.”
And it won’t be the last, Stancil said. At 26, she’s already eyeing the Paris Games in three years — even if she’s eyeing the world championships in three weeks a little more closely.
American BMXers have won five medals since the sport debuted in the Olympics in 2008. The only one missing from that collection, Stancil notes, is a women’s gold.
“Hopefully one day, someone — maybe me — can get that,” she said.
And if does, you can bet her dad will be there.