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Wednesday, April 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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7-year-old nationally ranked biker from Spokane Valley lands spot on Team USA

Kennedy Knopp of Spokane Valley is a fierce competitor on the BMX track. She rides her bike with determination down hills and over jumps, always crossing the finish line with a smile. She’s 7 years old.

Though Kennedy has only been competing for two years, she is ranked second in the nation in her age group and has earned herself a spot on Team USA in the 2019 UCI BMX World Championships in Belgium in July.

Her mother, Amanda Knopp, said her daughter got started racing on the advice of doctors. Her legs hurt a lot at night and doctors first thought she had rheumatoid arthritis, but then discovered she was hyperextending her knees. Her doctors recommended she participate in a sport where her knees needed to be bent. BMX was a natural fit because she loved riding her bike.

“We took her to the track one day, and she just never stopped going,” Knopp said.

At the time the family lived in Richland. “We started doing local races,” her mother said.

That soon advanced to state races, then she was invited to nationals where she took third place her first time out. “We just kept competing more and more,” her mother said.

In February, Kennedy competed in a world qualifying race in Florida, where she took first place. Now she’ll compete in Belgium against girls who are 8 years old. “You race at the age you will be at the end of the year,” her mother said. “She will race for the world title.”

Kennedy actually qualified for worlds last year, which were held in Azerbaijan, but the family didn’t go. “People told us it wasn’t safe,” her mother said. “As it turned out, it was beautiful. We’re kind of bummed we didn’t go.”

The family is raising money for the trip to the world competition. Kennedy has six local sponsors and T-shirts will be sold for $25. The shirts can be ordered by emailing knopp61@yahoo.com. Other fundraisers are in the planning stage and will be announced on Kennedy’s Instagram page, which is @kennedy.knopp.

Kennedy is shy with people she doesn’t know and doesn’t say much, so she lets her abilities speak for her. She said she likes going over jumps and the friends that she’s made doing competitions. She’s currently trying to teach herself manualing, which is something like popping a wheelie while going over a jump.

“She likes to push herself and do things that other kids her age don’t do,” her mother said.

Kennedy said she gets nervous sometimes, but finds that the hardest part of racing is being one of few girls out of the track. The boys she competes with aren’t always good sports when they lose to her, she said. “They cry when I beat them,” she said.

Her mother said Kennedy is known for crossing the finish line with a big smile on her face. That’s usually because she’s in first place. “She does not like to lose,” she said.

Kennedy practices as best she can during the winter. She has a starting gate in her dad’s backyard shop that she can practice with and has a trainer that hooks to her bike so she can ride it in place. “We go to the west side of the state a lot and they have indoor tracks,” her mother said.

But all that fast riding and jumping sometimes catches up with her. She’s broken an arm four times, though only once was because of BMX racing. Last June she competed in three national races with a cast on her arm and handily won all three.

Last weekend Knopp was competing in Burlington, Washington, when she took a spill during a practice run. She jumped right back up and competed in the race, but it was later discovered that she had sprained her wrist. “She didn’t tell us until we were almost home that her wrist hurt,” her mother said.

Her mother said she tries not to worry when her daughter races. “When I see her crash, usually she pops right up,” she said. “I’ve only seen her fall once and not get right back up. I don’t get too nervous.”

She said she knows the track is where her daughter wants to be.

“I just love watching her out there because I know she’s having so much fun,” she said.

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