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Detroit teens aim to go to the Olympics at the Lexus Velodrome

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 18:24:52-04

(WXYZ) — It's the speed that attracts some. For others, the competition on the track is what drives them to go faster and faster.

The Lexus Velodrome provides Detroit teens like DeJohn Parks, who is 17, opportunities that can propel them far beyond city limits.

“I’ve been riding for five years. I’ve been riding, two, just for fun, and the next three years I’ve been riding competitive," he said. "I’ve been traveling all over the world with Lexus Velodrome."

DeJohn has big goals for himself, and he's in the perfect place to chase them down.

Dale Hughes built the track in Detroit, along with more than two dozen others around the world.

“We’ve got the engines, we now have the facility. We’ve got a program where we can offer free equipment, free training, free coaching, so we think we’ve got the ingredients to offer some kids a chance to move away from just being here in Detroit, to experience racing around the country, experience racing around the world," Hughes said.

That appeals to 15-year-old Donell Anderson. He's another one of the athletes heading to Pennsylvania to compete in the summer nationals.

"What are your hopes?" I asked him.

“For now, I want to go to Nationals and I get a podium. From there, I want to see what races I actually do good in, and then I want to go to the Olympics and win the races," Donell said.

Nelson Vails' photo hangs prominently inside the Velodrome. He's the only African American to date to win an Olympic medal in track cycling.

Photos of Olympic champion Connie Paraskevin and the great Shelia Young Ochowicz are there too, highlighting Detroit's great history in the sport.

“In the 1890s through the 1930s, it was as big as baseball in this country and had as many fans going to it," Hughes said. "1927, 40,000 Detroiters came to see this kind of bike racing We’re hoping to get a thousand people in here and you can get real close to the action, that’s for sure.”

The 64,000 square foot facility at I-75 and Mack Ave. opened in January 2018. Through the middle of August, free cycling camps are being offered to kids ages 3-17. THey will learn to ride, learn bycycle safety and some will learn to ride the track.

For those who really take to it, there's an opportunity in cycling even if the Olympics aren't in their future.

“We’ve already had six kids that we’ve gotten full college scholarship rides to several different colleges. There are about 30 colleges in the United States that offer scholarships for track cycling, so there’s opportunity, educationally, that you can take this sport and help you pay for your college education," Hughes said.