Since leaving Nigeria for Spain at the age of seven, BMX rider Courage Adams has been bonded to both countries, and while he is the only African competitor at the summer X Games this month, he hesitates to call himself an ambassador.
Competing in the virtual Street competition, with the live event in California limited due to the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions, Adams filmed his entry [which fans can vote for online] in the streets of Madrid.
Adams, 25, discovered BMX at a skatepark in Pamplona aged 12. Had he not spent the bulk of his childhood in Spain due to his father’s work, he says it is doubtful that he would have ever discovered the sport.
He struggled to tie his identity to Nigeria as a child and teen, until a 2019 trip back to Benin City, where he was born, brought him the clarity that BMX and extreme sports are not just for those in Europe.
While filming the Red Bull documentary Encouraged on only his second trip back to his home country, Adams met the Lagos BMX Crew, a fanatical group of riders who ride through the streets due to the lack of skateparks in Nigeria.
Adams told ESPN when asked if he felt he was riding for all of Africa at the X Games: “I don’t know… No, because the guys over there [in Nigeria] already know how to do some tricks and they are really good.
“They really represent Nigeria and Africa more than I am doing, but for sure, I try to improve them and give them opportunities so that in the future, they can build their careers properly.”
Conflicted, Adams added after a pause: “I represent Nigeria and Africa because I think how I ride BMX, how I figured out some tricks, and how I do some stuff… I do it because that’s African lifestyle and African power that gave me that energy and motivation to do what I do.”
He has yet to acquire a full passport in his adopted country, but hopes to resolve this by the end of the year, having had his movements restricted during the course of his career by visa issues [hence his inability to be at the live X Games in California]. It also affected his ability to compete at the Olympics.
During his early childhood in Nigeria, he experienced the struggles faced by many in the country and on the continent at large, growing up in poverty.
Adams recalled: “There were always problems with money and food. Life wasn’t easy. There are not many opportunities and jobs over there. My parents wanted to work, but there was no work. The situation was not good.”
His father was the first to leave for Spain, landing a job in the food industry in Basque country and sending money home. Around two years later, the family followed him to Spain and they moved to Pamplona, where Adams discovered BMX.
He added: “My dad was working and living in a small apartment that we went into together. From there, my mom started working and me and my sister started going to school.
“Between my mom and my dad, they were getting more or less good money to take care of us and all the expenses, but sometimes it’s quite hard when you don’t know the [Spanish] language.”
Adams eventually adjusted to his new surroundings, and after discovering BMX as a pre-teen, he sold all his video games to purchase a second-hand bike for €40. Although his father wanted him to be a footballer and he played that sport too, he truly found his new home in BMX.
At the age of 16, Adams was noticed by flatland rider Jorge ‘Viki’ Gómez, who introduced him to Red Bull. This proved to be the launchpad for the Vans rider’s career.
Among Adams’ accolades are a first place finish at the 2019 Backyard Jam Final in Corby and third at the FISE Montpellier – BMX Street event.
Most importantly for Adams, the day he scrambled the change together to buy his first bike, he learned a valuable lesson about BMX and life, which he has carried with him around the world.
“With patience, if you really feel it, you go for it. There are no limits,” he said. “You start thinking about how to get something and figuring it out, and if you really want it, you can get it.”
Fans can vote for his entry through July 18, with the live event taking place from July 14 to 18. The virtual winners will be voted for by fans and judges.
The X Games will air on ESPN in Africa on DStv 218, Starsat 248.
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