Rochester fifth-grader Ben Holman might only weigh around 70 pounds but his small size masks his massive bravery and determination. Nicknamed Energizer Benny, the 10-year-old spends his time outside of school dedicated to the sport of BMX. “I love it because there are so many tricks you can do,” he says.
In January, Ben competes in the Toyota BMX Triple Challenge at Anaheim Stadium in California. Ben will perform his outstanding stunts while going over the big jumps. Not only will the precocious pre-teen be riding on the biggest jumps he’s been on, but he will probably also be the youngest rider at the event.
When he was just an 18-month-old toddler Ben started riding bikes wanting to keep up with his older siblings and the kids in the neighborhood. By the age of three, the youngster broke off every set of training wheels his dad Troy Holman put on his bike. That’s when Troy decided he was done with them. “The first time, he just took off,” says Troy. “I told him to pedal hard and he’s not look back since. There was no complaining. He just went and has been riding hard ever since.”
When Ben was five, Troy and his wife Melissa thought there might be something more than just a boy and his bike when he made a really big jump off of a two by four laying on the ground. “He flew so far so fast I decided we needed to get him into a place that’s designed for him to jump and land,” says Troy. “That’s when we first went to the skate park in Centralia so he could start actually doing stuff.”
Ben entered his first competition at age nine. “He didn’t do really well at first and then this last year he went to Hot Wheel Jr. Series events and he was in the top three every time at these regional and national events with kids from all over the United States,” says Troy. “At one point last year, he was ranked fourth globally for his age group.”
Troy admits there are times when the tricks Ben performs scare them. “But we’ve watched him start with jumps in the driveway so at this point it’s not uncommon for him to jump 20 feet in the air and travel 20 feet horizontally,” Troy says. “He did the scariest thing I’ve ever seen him do on Saturday and before I could say no, he was like ‘I’ve got this, let’s go!’ He got it but it was not the easiest thing to watch at first. He had to go on a really high thing to go up and over and there could have been lots of consequences to concrete if he had messed up.”
But Ben’s fearless nature keeps him going. “When I am doing big jumps, it feels like time slows down,” Ben says. “I like that feeling but it depends on if I know I am going to crash.” To prevent injury he wears a helmet, knee and shin pads. “I just tumble and roll,” he says.
The family spends a lot of time taking him to ride. If the weather is good it’s up to seven days a week finding bike parks and dirt jumps for Ben to practice on. When Troy and Melissa can’t take Ben, Grandpa Jeff and Grandma June are very supportive and step in to help but it’s grandma who gets scared to watch her young grandson hit big air. “They take me all over the place,” says Ben.
In the future, Ben would like to ride in Nitro Circus and X Games. “What he does now is an Olympic event so we will see what the future holds, but he’s got some pretty high aspirations,” says Troy. “I want to go pro,” Ben adds.
But for now, Ben is focused on the next event. “I am looking forward to the sunshine in California and getting to see lots of my friends that I’ve road with at other competitions,” he says.
Troy and Melissa not only spend their time driving Ben to parks and events to ride, but they also find themselves as Ben’s social media managers. “We run his accounts making sure he has something to post every day,” says Troy. “We save stuff from other days when the weather is bad, so we always have content to post. It’s been a big learning curve.”
Ben’s Instagram name Energizer_Benny is a reflection of his driven and energetic personality. “He is so full of energy,” says Troy. “He will do 10 passes to one or two to the other guys riding at the parks. A lot of kids want to watch tv or stare at a phone. I wish he would sit down sometimes but he is always going, going, going.”
When Ben shows up at the parks, he now gets the pro treatment and everybody stops to watch him. “People used to be shocked, but we’ve been to enough parks so most BMX riders in Western Washington now know who he is,” says Troy. When at the Centralia Skate Park, people driving down Harrison Avenue notice his distinctive helmet popping up on the jumps and they will stop to watch or ride with him.
Ben faces the challenges of BMX riding with persistence and resiliency but there’s a lot of fun along the way with friends and family, adventures and creativity. “Make sure you are doing the things you enjoy,” Troy says. “Ben’s found the thing he enjoys at this stage in his life and mom and dad are doing everything we can to support that. This is his passion and it’s what he wants to do.”