The last year has been filled with huge emotional swings for St. Cloud native and BMX superstar Alise Post. She won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics last August, but just a few weeks later her fiancé and fellow BMX racer Sam Willoughby suffered a severe spinal injury while he was training. His ongoing recovery caused Post to re-evaluate many aspects of her life and racing, but she emerged last weekend with one of her greatest professional triumphs with a victory at the UCI BMX World Championships in South Carolina. Post, 26, chatted this week with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q You were the first American woman in 20 years to win the world championship. What did that race mean to you?
A It was exciting. I’ve led the world championships multiple times and had crashes that ended it midlap. I’ve been the half-lap world champ a few times. I’ve covered the podium in bronze and silver. I’ve been so close so many times. For me, I guess, my whole career I’ve never really thought about how long it’s been since an American has won it. To learn that piece of information was really cool, and being on home soil, with the personal year it’s been, maybe it’s the year I was meant to have it.
Q You referenced it already, but what has this last year been like and what can you tell us about Sam’s recovery?
A The success of the Olympics was so short-lived because of what happened to Sam a few weeks later. Your focus changes and your life becomes about something else; you gain perspective. As much as you love sports, there is life outside of sports. … The motivation wasn’t there at the beginning of this year. I wanted it to be there, but things weren’t going well. My head wasn’t in it. It took a while once we got home to finally screw my head on. Sam said he was going to help me. The worlds were always on the radar and something to look forward to. For Sam, it was something to focus on away from rehab and be a part of and sort of race with me. The whole thing was bigger than me, which made it quite special. It felt like a team effort.
Q You postponed your wedding after the accident, but you’ve resumed planning, correct?
A We rescheduled for New Year’s Eve, and it will be exactly one year from when we got home [in San Diego] from the hospital. I’ve been really focused on that stuff, too. I love planning and organizing and DIY things. I’m a girl and I like that stuff. Sam’s been like, “You have to train.” I think that’s been a healthy distraction to have that going on as well with Sam’s rehab.
Q Could you have imagined this life you’ve created when you were growing up in St. Cloud?
A No, not at all. When I started in Minnesota, it was just with my friends and it wasn’t an Olympic sport. I was a gymnast, too. I just loved competing, and I’ve always been gifted to be able to do multiple things. I had fun doing what I was doing. I love the camaraderie of sports and the adrenaline rush. BMX was never the end game until I was thinking of turning pro and found out it was going to be an Olympic sport. I was like, “I’m pretty good at this. Maybe I should pursue it.” I met Sam through it, and all these other life things have happened that you never could have imagined when you’re 6 years old just riding around.