Tributes are pouring in for a hometown Nanaimo boy who soared to the top of the world’s cycling stage, and died at the young age of 26 Tuesday.
Steve Smith was regarded as one of the best mountain bikers on the planet, and was idolized by people around the world for what he could do on two wheels. But the impact he had off the bike is what’s left a wave of heartbreak in his hometown.
Randy Little walks the Nanaimo BMX track where Steve Smith first fell in love with cycling.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says the former President of the Nanaimo BMX club and longtime friend. “He was an absolutely awesome kid, this is more or less where it all started for him.”
So the like thousands who’ve come to know the kid that became the world’s best, he is heartbroken by his sudden passing.
“All night long I’ve been getting phone calls, texts from Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho,” says Little.
The World Cup sensation known around the globe as the Canadian Chainsaw started out in BMX, at about six years old. Raised by a single mom, money was tight so they scraped together to buy his first bike with money made from selling his Grandma’s homemade pies.
“And traded pies for a bike,” remembers friend Michelle Corfield.
“I think it was a year’s worth of pie or something like that and I got a box bike out of it a free agent,” remembered Steve Smith when he was interviewed by Dirt TV for a documentary.
He rose to be the best mountain biker in Canadian history. Wealth and fame followed, as he dove headfirst into trying to be the best in the world. But those who knew him say he never lost his humbleness.
“I am absolutely honoured to have know him,” says Corfield.
Melissa Hoffort saw him last week when he came in to get his regular haircut at Sports Barbers.
“And he was just feeling really grateful and really lucky to be able to do what he wanted to do and have fun doing it,” says Hoffort.
But just days later his amazing run would end in a crash Friday, May 6th on a trail outside of Nanaimo’s Wastelands Motocross track.
“Went around a corner it looks like and collided with his friend,” says Corfield.
He was in a coma for days and died on Tuesday. Leaving a hole the size of a crater in the Island’s cycling community.
“There’s not a child that he goes by that is waving at him that he doesn’t actually stop to take time and say hi to and make sure that child feels special.
And Wednesday night they’re getting a chance to say goodbye to their idol. At this BMX track where it all began at, racers will do a lap in honour of Stevie Smith who set a bar youngsters can now see in their reach, because Stevie laid the track before them.
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the accident occurred at Wastelands Motorcross Track.