Every day after school, he’d ride his bike to the skatepark, popping in and out of the bowls and features on his BMX bike. He had no idea what the sport of freestyle BMX was, but when he was 14, a couple of older riders showed up at the park and started doing spins and tricks on their bikes. “I saw them and I was like, ‘I never knew you could do that’,” says Daniel. He learned a few tricks and that year, he entered his first BMX park and dirt contests around the local area. When he was 15, he rode BMX in a TV commercial for Nickelodeon, and after that, Daniel and fellow BMXer Pat Casey were invited to ride on stage during a Pink concert at the American Music Awards. “We had these rehearsals but when it came time to perform, I got nervous,” explains Daniel. “As soon as I rolled forward, I could see all of these famous people and I was like, ‘OK, don’t mess this up’.” In addition to his television appearances, Daniel started making a name for himself at local and regional contests. “It was always my goal to be in the top five,” he says. In 2011, at a Vans Rebeljam contest in Europe, Daniel, then 17, landed the world’s first BMX 720 tailwhip to barspin, a groundbreaking new trick in the BMX world. After that, he returned home and was at a friend’s house practising tricks on his bike into a foam pit. His friend suggested he up the ante and try a double whip. Daniel tried it and after a few attempts, landed the trick. Not long after, he went to Costa Rica for another contest. “In Costa Rica, I was like, ‘I think I can land the double whip’,” he says. “People wanted to see that trick be done.” Yet again, he proved the impossible was possible, landing BMX’s first double tailwhip 720. “That was so satisyfing,” he says. “Now it is definitely a goal of mine to set new tricks and push the sport forward.” Daniel is one of few BMXers who rides a brakeless bike, so he has to use the park course differently than others. That’s given him his own style, a signature look in the park that judges often reward him for. He shone at X Games and Dew Tour, earning plenty of those top-five finishes he was after and managing an ever busier contest schedule that had him jet-setting everywhere from Brazil to Barcelona and all over the US. Even as the top results continued to pour in, he says he learned to focus on himself and his riding – and not the judges’ scores. “I’m more concerned with my riding than placing well,” he says. “No matter what place I get, if I know I rode well, then I’m happy.” Sometimes, though, the score matters. In 2014, he earned his first X Games medal, a bronze, at BMX Park in Austin, Texas. He followed that up the next year with an even more successful performance, landing his first X Games gold medal in 2015. “It was unbelievable, just surreal,” he says about his win. When he’s not in the park or filming video edits, he’s also been known to compete in both park and dirt at X Games. “I don’t ride dirt unless there’s a contest,” he says. “I just drop in when they call my name.” Most of all, though, he is focused on having fun in the park and helping move his sport to the next level. “I visualize a trick I think could be possible, then I try it out in the foam pit and see if it works,” says Daniel. “If it works, then I’ll take it to a contest.
|D.O.B||July 13, 1994|
Meet the Athlete
Daniel Sandoval never set out to become a professional BMX rider. He just started riding his bike in the skatepark every day after school as a kid, and one day a few older riders taught him how to do tricks. Now he’s the one setting the pace for never-been-done-before tricks in BMX park contests and film segments shot and seen around the world. Sandoval was born near Los Angeles, a third-generation Hispanic American. He moved to the southern California town of Corona when he was 11. Not long after settling in Corona, Daniel discovered the skatepark down the street from his house.