Mariana Pajón: Six things to know about "Queen of BMX" aiming for third gold at Tokyo 2020

Colombia's two-time Olympic champion is one of BMX's biggest stars. But here are six facts about the Medellín native you probably weren't aware of.

By ZK Goh
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

The "Queen of BMX" Mariana Pajón has done it all.

To her name, she has two Olympic gold medals – the first Colombian athlete in any sport to achieve that –, three BMX Supercross racing world titles, two Pan Am Games golds, and countless other honours. She's aiming for more at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021.

For her feats, she has also been recognised with the Order of Boyacá, Colombia's second-highest national decoration.

But who is the person and athlete behind this cycling star? Here are some facts you did not know about the 29-year-old London 2012 and Rio 2016 champion, who competes in the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup series which you can watch by streaming live on Olympic Channel.

1. Mariana Pajón's BMX beginnings and early injury

Aged just five, she fractured her collarbone while riding her bike.

She had first ridden the year prior, but the serious injury lead her family to question if they would let her continue cycling. Pajón also did gymnastics as a young child, but ultimately her parents decided to support her career choice in cycling.

Pajón won her first title in 2000, the year she turned nine, in a boys' competition in Argentina. She was the only girl in the race.

2. Pajón has suffered nearly 20 fractures

BMX is known to be a dangerous sport and Pajón perhaps exemplifies this perfectly.

While she was able to claim the her Olympic titles avoiding career-ending or life-changing injuries, such as those suffered by Sam Willoughby or Kai Sakakibara, she has had her fair share of serious setbacks.

Did you know she has suffered 18 fractures during her career to her hands, arms, ankles, knees, ribs, and shoulders?

She's also had nine screws and two plates inserted in her left wrist.

That's in addition to countless ligament and muscle injuries typical in sports, as well as no fewer than three concussions.

3. Mismatched racing gloves

Did you know that the Colombian races wearing mismatched racing gloves?

Her right and left gloves are usually different.

Speaking to Tokyo 2020, she explained: "They make me feel unique, that I'm different - that I'm me."

4. She got an Olympic tattoo two years before competing at the Games

Yes, Pajón had the Olympic rings tattooed on her arm in 2010, two whole years before she first competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"People told me that I was crazy because I hadn't even qualified for the Games and I'd already got the tattoo," she recalled.

"But I said: 'I want to', and it reminded me every day why I had to train."

5. Pajón's husband Vincent Pelluard from France now races for Colombia

Pajón is married to the French-born BMXer Vincent Pelluard.

The pair starting dating in 2013, the same year Pelluard won the French national championships men's elite race in Massy.

They married at the end of 2017, and less than two years later, Pelluard decided to switch his competitive allegiance from his birth country to that of his wife's.

Since then, he has worn the yellow, blue, and red of Colombia.

Vincent Pelluard (centre) with Thibaud Chauvin (left, silver) and Sylvain André (right, bronze) on the podium at the 2013 French national BMX Championships
Picture by Patrick Pichon / Panoramic (via REUTERS)

6. Colombia's leading BMX track is named for Pajón

After all her achievements in the sport, perhaps it is no surprise that Colombia's leading international-standard BMX facility is named after their two-time Olympic hero.

The Mariana Pajón BMX Supercross Complex in Madellín, Pajón's hometown, was constructed in 2015 and opened the following year in time to host the 2016 UCI BMX World Championships.

Unsurprisingly, Pajón won those World Championships in front of her home fans, on the track named for herself.

Talk about coming full circle. Next, a potential third Olympic gold awaits.


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