Seventeen years ago Kurt Pickard's stepdad Ash Rawson took him to the BMX track at Sulphur Point, chucked him on a bike and watched him go. Three years later Pickard won his first national title, and a few short months after that he finished third at the world champs in the 7-year-old boys division.
Next month, Pickard, now all grown up, will walk into London's Olympic Stadium as part of a New Zealand team that yesterday grew to 93 with the addition of BMX riders Pickard, Sarah Walker and Marc Willers, although it will eventually to rise to 185.
Pickard, 21, was the 2010 New Zealand champion but has had a horror time trying to qualify for his first Olympics, with a serious crash while racing in Europe forcing him off the bike and onto the physio table.
He returned to impress with his speed, making the quarter-finals at last year's world championships, before a big crash at a UCI Supercross World Cup in Norway in April put him in a wheelchair for a week nursing a smashed wrist and ankle.
Just when he thought he was over the hump, Pickard missed out qualifying in Birmingham at last month's world champs after his foot pulled out of the clip, bumping him back to 157th of the 159 riders who completed qualifying.
All of which made the former Tauranga Boys' College student, who quit school at the start of Year 12, nervous about his chances of joining Willers and Walker in London.
"It wasn't an easy week, for sure, and I didn't really know what to think of my chances - I didn't think I'd blown it with what happened in Birmingham but it definitely didn't boost my chances any, that's for sure," an elated Pickard said yesterday.
"Sitting on the start at the worlds I was feeling the best I'd ever felt on the bike and had some result goals I wanted to achieve, so I was obviously pretty devastated by what happened, although after a few hours I calmed down and got over it."
Pickering's right ankle is still tender after the Norway spill while his left wrist gives him permanent pain, having been broken five times.
Queens Birthday weekend became extra long for an anxious Pickard, who texted BMX hgh performance coach Ken Cools on Monday morning desperate for news.
Cools phoned him within minutes to end the nervous wait.
"I was super stoked when he phoned and told a few close family members, although I'd resigned myself that if I didn't make it this time then I didn't deserve to go."
All eyes will be on Kawerau's Walker, who finished fourth in the final when BMX made its Olympic debut in Beijing and went on to win the world title the following year in Adelaide, and California-based Willers in London. That suits Pickard fine, who will breeze into London under the radar next month after a couple of buildup races in the US and race pressure-free.
The Olympic-bound trio have been working with mental skills coach David Galbraith but Pickard, who has now won 13 national titles, said the lack of hype around his own hopes was good, especially dealing with the cut-throat nature of BMX, where there is no second chance.
"One mistake in Birmingham and that was it, my world champs were over. In rugby you can knock the ball on and still keep playing but in BMX one mistake and you're out of the race or end up injured."
BikeNZ high performance director Mark Elliott is confident Pickering will put up a strong showing in London after the New Zealand Olympic Committee ratified his place in the team, believing he can make the top 16.
"Kurt has shown he has the speed to match the best but is learning to be more consistent. He has the potential to make the final in London."
Pickering's mum Donna is a former BMX ace and nurtured his love of the sport.
She and Rawson funded his first world champs trip and many more after that, with Pickering's selection was payback for the hundreds of hours they'd put into his development.
"It's every kid's dream to go to an Olympics somehow, and for me that was BMX. The dream fired along even more since BMX was introduced at Beijing.
"I have my goals for this year and I think I'm capable of top 16, although ultimately my goal is gold. Whether that happens in London this year or in Rio (in 2016) I really don't mind too much."