RIO DE JANEIRO — He’s reserved, she’s outgoing. He’s from Australia, she’s from Minnesota.
Sam Willoughby and Alise Post are also two of the best BMX racers in the world. Before they get married next year, they’d like to win medals at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
After all, something golden to wear at the wedding would look nice.
“We’ve done it for a lot of years now. We’re pretty good at it,” Post said. “We’re also each other’s biggest supporters … because who better understands it than the person who has been there.”
They’ve each had plenty of big-race experience.
Willoughby won the silver medal for Australia at the London Olympics in 2012, when Post finished 12th for the U.S. They’re top contenders again this season on the World Cup tour, where Willoughby was sixth in the men’s rankings and Post was third on the women’s side.
Willoughby is 24 and Post is 25. But in the churning, youthful discipline of BMX, they’re established veterans.
Post and Willoughby grew up together on the bikes, part of a generation of racers who have watched BMX turn from a niche sport to the X-Games to an Olympic sport that was introduced as way to draw younger crowds.
They were just teenagers when BMX first appeared as a medal sport eight years ago in Beijing.
“He kind of showed me the way on how to focus on one thing and be a professional in BMX … and that level of competition,” said Post, a former state champion gymnast.
Post has helped Willoughby take a step back when needed, and take a breath.
“She kind of helped me open up a little bit and sometimes I’ve helped her get a little bit more tunnel vision and focus at times when needed,” Willoughby said Sunday. “I would say, in that respect, we help each other in probably our weaker areas.”
And that, Willoughby, said is what makes them click.
“I think the best part of our relationship is that we’re very different personalities,” he added.
He can also pull a surprise or two.
Willoughby proposed on Dec. 27, luring Post out on what he said would be just a magazine photo shoot in Coronado, California, outside San Diego, near where BMX racers train in Chula Vista.
The moment was captured on Instagram , where Post said, “After a few awkward poses, I was shocked to turn around and find him down on one knee.” They’ve set a wedding date of April 15, 2017.
For now, the focus is on the Summer Olympics.
“Me and Sam, you probably wouldn’t even know that we’re dating or know each other on race day,” Postsaid this weekend in Rio. “We’re in our zone, we’re doing our thing and that’s the way we keep it because obviously it can be hard to separate that on race day.”
They both have separate training regimens and separate coaches. If they’re at the track together and have time to watch each other, Willoughby and Post might offer tips to each other if needed, or point out good or bad moves.
When they’re home, and the bikes and helmets are put away, Willoughby and Post don’t try to avoid talking about their day jobs. It’s hard not to when BMX takes up nearly their entire lives.
They’re both intense competitors, even if they may not have the same personalities.
“Those polar opposites sometimes balance each other out and create a happy medium,” Post said. “It’s good.”