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Sarasota Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022 1 week ago

Sarasota Athlete of the Week: Joey Leto

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The BMX pro and Lindenwood University rising senior is returning home to teach youth camps at Sarasota BMX this summer.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

Joey Leto is a professional BMX racer who grew up in Sarasota and is a rising senior cyclist at Lindenwood University (St. Charles, Missouri). Leto finished second in the Men's Individual Omnium standings at the 2022 USA Cycling Collegiate BMX National Championships, held Feb. 19-20 at Black Mountain BMX in Phoenix. 

Leto is hosting a youth camp at Sarasota BMX this week alongside fellow BMX pro Tyler Klumper. Leto will be hosting a second camp at the track July 11-15 with fellow pro Rayne Lankford. The camp is $60 a day or $250 a week. For information visit the Sarasota BMX Facebook page

When did you start competing in BMX?

The first time I came out to the track (Sarasota BMX) I was 3 years old. My mom (Kristy Leto) took me. She was tired of taking me on bike rides because whenever I would ride my bike I would be launching off the curb or doing other daredevil kid stuff. So me brought me to the track. I could not make it up any of the jumps. I would roll up them and then crash back down. But I loved it and have enjoyed BMX ever since. 

What is the appeal to you?

There is always something to get better at. It's a simple sport but there is always a little thing you can improve. It's also just fun. I mean, I love riding my bike. I still feel like a little kid sometimes. You get into a different state, a flow, where you only focus on things happening (during a race). 

What have you recently been working to improve? 

I have been working on my gate starts. I'm fast around the track, so if I can match that with a good gate start, I'll be better off. Like I said, there's always something. You can always climb a little bit more in one area and then look for the next thing to improve. 

What is your best skill?

Overall track speed. Jumping, manualling and maneuvering around the course. 

What is your favorite BMX memory?

My whole first season racing as a pro (2021) was unbelievable in how different it was. The level of competition was so much higher because everyone had earned the right to be there. Any racer in those events could pop off at any time. I had to stay consistent against people who are always on. I learned a lot. I have gotten so much better just in these last two years.

My first Elite Men's race was probably the most memorable single moment because I was going up against guys I looked up to my whole life and grew up watching. Hearing the announcer say my name alongside theirs, that was special. 

What made you want to host youth camps this summer?

I started my career here at Sarasota BMX. I want to give the kids here the same experience I had, being inspired to want to be something great. I want them to climb the mountain and enjoy the journey. It is a great feeling to see yourself getting better. And BMX is a great environment. There is so much camaraderie. I have friends that I made through learning BMX that I will keep for the rest of my life. 

What is your favorite food?

I have been eating a lot of ice cream lately. Root beer floats are good. But as far as something to eat for dinner, I don't know. I go through phases. Sometimes I want seafood and sometimes I want beef. I'm not too picky. I'll eat anything. 

What is your favorite TV show?

I have been catching up on "Stranger Things" since it just dropped a new season, but I haven't watched those episodes yet. 

What are your hobbies?

I like to go fishing. I do a little wakeboarding and snowboarding. I just try to always be having fun. 

Which superpower would you pick?

I think being able to fly would be cool. Even being on a Supercross hill and jumping off with my bike is pretty fun. Flying off it would be even better. 

What is the best advice you have received?

Basically everything that Percy (Owens, BMX world champion and coach) taught me is the best advice I have heard. The most important thing is that if you work hard, you can do great things. 

Finish this sentence: "Joey Leto is …"

Spunky. 

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I’m the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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