A Small Town Boy to 2nd Place in the World
The Unforgettable Years of One Incredible Ride
Full documentary (90 min)
A heartfelt story of the life of Dominic Therrien, a young boy from a small town who left his country to live in Europe, by himself, to pursue his dream of being a professional rider in the sport of BMX. Defying all odds, Dominic obtained 2nd Place in the World.
Dominic's BMX Story
Dominic was born in Thetford Mines, Québec, Canada. A few years later, his family moved to a small town called Pointe-Du-Lac where Dominic lived for the rest of his childhood. Luckily for him, his new home was located two minutes away from a BMX track, having a huge impact on Dominic's future. Dominic discovered the track immediately and made it the most important part of his life for decades to come.
Dominic fell in love with the sport right away. If you wanted to find him, you needed to look no further than the BMX track. Dominic was there as long as there was sun left in the sky. He begged his parents for months to sign him up for a race. When the big moment came, he won his very first race. This was the start of what set Dominic apart for years to come. After showing constant determination to his parents, his dad bought him his first “real” BMX bike. Dominic continued to win every single local race event. A few months later, the president of the BMX club of Pointe-Du-Lac, Mrs. Louise Dehais, knew that without a doubt Dominic had something special. His talent and drive was to be taken seriously. Mrs. Dehais went to Dominic’s house to have a conversation with his parents regarding his future in the sport. She suggested to send Dominic to the state championships (Championship of the Quebec province).
As much as Dominic’s parents were supportive and proud to see him perform so well on his local track, they had reservations regarding sending him to the state championships. The championships involved a lot of traveling, hotel and other fees, every weekend for a whole summer season. Dominic’s parents were often financially challenged and the financial commitment needed was far from being easy to accommodate. After a long talk with the president of the club, his parents agreed to make the financial commitment.
There it was, without even realizing what was happening, the 11 year old boy from Pointe-Du- Lac started his BMX racing career in 1991. Dominic took 4th place at his very first state race. Though he was very disappointed with his performance, his peers seemed to be incredibly impressed that he was even able to qualify for the main event of his first state race. Prior to the state level, Dominic had no experience racing with other riders all around him. He had always been far ahead of his local competitors, and therefore, had the whole track to himself. This was definitely something different. However, Dominic gladly accepted the new challenge, took his 4th place trophy home with him, and focused on future races. Only five races deep into the season, Dominic was already winning almost every single state event on the calendar and ended up winning the 1991 state championship - his very first year of racing!
Yvon, Dominic’s father, took his sport very seriously after that year. Dominic became extremely close to his father as he also became his trainer and manager. Yvon was a retired touring musician that turned his life in a different direction after Dominic was born. He said that he wanted to have a job with normal hours so that he could spend more time with his family. However, Yvon would always have his guitar handy, and naturally he passed on his love of music to his son. Since Yvon was a guitar player, there’s nothing better than having a bass player in the family. Dominic picked up the instrument and started to play the bass with his dad. Together, they formed a duo and began to perform for family holidays, churches, and local town events.
In a way, Dominic's life became very simple. During the summer months, Dominic would spend every single day at the BMX track and spend the long cold winter playing music with his dad. At 8 years old, Dominic said, “One day, I will be world champion in BMX and I will travel the world racing with the professionals, and when I will be too old to race, I will become a musician like my dad.” Today, as we can see, the young boy knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
Aside from BMX and music, it is important to mention that Dominic was not an easy child. Despite his good intentions, he was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) to which he was prescribed medication. Dominic was failing academically and was also getting himself into all sorts of trouble. The effects of it made his poor parents exhausted and very worried about his future. His mother, Marie France, said, “It’s not that Dominic is a bad kid, the world in his head moves so fast that no one could get through to him and get him to focus on anything except music and BMX.”
After countless attempts at medication, threats of taking away his BMX bike in exchange for academic progress, punishment after punishment, etc., nothing worked. Eventually, his parents were even considering sending Dominic to a special school away from home, which would have put an end to his BMX racing. His mother said, “As much as it breaks my heart, we have to think of Dominic’s future as a priority”.
In the middle of making the arrangements, Dominic’s father put an immediate end to the whole process. He said, ‘’If we put Dominic’s future in the hands of folks we don't even know, and take everything he cares about away from him, what good is that going to do?’’ His mother emotionally responded, “What else can we do? We’ve tried everything we could.” Yvon replied, “No, we have not. First, I don’t want Dominic on medication anymore. Second, rather than taking his BMX away, I will give him an opportunity to have a career in the sport. If Dominic succeeds at becoming a professional in the sport, he will have to learn about the skills in life that are necessary to become successful at anything. He will have to learn discipline at a whole new level. Rather than pedaling his bike as hard as he can, he will have to learn how to focus, learn how to win and lose, etc. I believe that this is the best thing that can happen to my son. I don’t see any other option.” His mother was confused. What else could have been done regarding his sport since they were already investing so much into the state championships and had already reached a dangerous limit on their finances. Yvon said, “I believe my son can be more than a state champion. I believe he can become world champion. I am going to make sure I give him that opportunity.” Yvon called it, ‘sending Dominic to the University of Life’. He made the decision to sell his house and use the equity to invest in Dominic’s BMX career. Yvon said, “When I pass away I will have an inheritance for my children. Whenever that happens I will give half to Myriam (Dominic’s younger sister), but for the sake of his future, he needs his half now...not in 40+ years.”
And just like that, Dominic began to race at a whole new level, going all over the NBL (National BMX League) Circuit, UCI (Union Cyclists International) World Championship, and traveling across his country racing the Canadian Championship circuit as well. His father eventually became one of the BMX trainers for the FQSC (Federation Québec Sport Cyclist) and trained/managed Dominic's career for years to come.
In 1998, at 18 years old, Dominic won the Canadian Championships and became quite recognized by the media in Québec. Yvon followed Dominic’s career very closely. Every successful race, every mistake, every race he lost, etc...Yvon was analyzing every move in order to understand what could be improved. Yvon was taking notes, brought the information back to the local track, fixed the problem, back to the next race, and so on and so on. The more Dominic advanced in his career, the more Yvon became highly respected as a trainer for all of the other athletes as well.
Unfortunately, despite everything Yvon was doing, Dominic wasn't able to produce any good results at an international level. He was very aware that despite Dominic’s perseverance, the long Candian winters were causing a big set-back in Dominic’s progression. The only thing left to do was for Dominic to leave his country and live where he could train year round. Where he could train with the athletes that had already been world champions, and to train with the trainers that had succeeded in making a team that competed at an international level.
The plan was for Dominic to move to Europe. With a few sponsors offered by his government, Dominic had the finances to live in France for about a year where he could train with the best riders in the world. In 1998, at 18 years old, Dominic moved to France, just he and his bike and a backpack.
Dominic was followed very closely by the Canadian media and became an icon for most of the riders in Québec. In the eyes of Dominic, this was his opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming #1 in the world. Shortly after the plane landed, Dominic was greeted by one of the French riders, Mr. Yann Bonici, a pro rider that agreed to accommodate Dominic for the first few weeks. Mr. Bonici immediately brought Dominic to a famous trail, Grillon - North Paris, to see what Dominic could do. Dominic had a lot of pressure. He was spoken very highly of, not to mention the excitement for the French riders to get an opportunity to train with a Canadian Champion. Unfortunately, to the disappointment of all, Dominic could not keep up. Many of the riders on the track were only amateur--younger than him, yet more fluid and faster in general. Dominic would not have stood a chance against any serious competitor.
In the first 20 minutes of his first riding experience in Europe, Dominic felt completely embarrassed and that the dream he held onto for a decade was only the result of being completely delusional. He had no idea what it really took to be a world class athlete. Holding his emotions together, Dominic complimented one of the riders and asked him to share his experience. The young 14 year old boy shared with Dominic that he was only riding as a hobby because in his opinion, he did not have the level to compete in the French championship. According to him, he was already too old to think about doing anything serious in the sport of BMX. Sad and surprised, Dominic replied, ”Why are you too old and why can’t you compete? You are faster than me, younger than me, and your riding skills are better than what I have ever seen in my life.” The young boy replied with a smile on his face, “Thank you, but I believe you are signed up to race the first heat of the French championship this coming weekend, correct? When you come back on Monday, you will understand.”
Just as the young boy described, Dominic did not perform well at all. He did not pass any of the qualifications, far from the main event. Humbled and discouraged by the harsh reality, Dominic had to break the sad news to his father and the media that only one week into this experience, things were not going well at all. His father gave him a positive talk, but despite his support, as the weeks passed by the level of riding was just too high. Regardless of what tactic Dominic used to approach each race, whether focusing on a good line in the corner, a perfect timing out of the gate, or a 110% desperate effort, Dominic could not keep up. Eventually, Yvon accepted the harsh reality as well and encouraged Dominic to not be disappointed. Rather, he explained to him that maybe thinking of being world champion wasn't meant to be, but that Dominic already had so much to be proud of. Dominic was the first Canadian rider to have taken the extra step to leave his country and live with the professionals. He had to train his whole life under the regrettable conditions of long winters and short summer seasons. Dominic and his father were only trying to figure out the sport as the two of them went along. Dominic was already respected by the other riders in Québec and he had something to be proud of regardless of what happened in France. Yvon said to Dominic, “You have a unique opportunity to be in Europe to learn from the best of the best. Take that opportunity and come home with that knowledge that no one has ever had in our country. Learn, come home, then pass it on to the new generation.” After a month of reflection, Dominic eventually accepted the reality, started to make friends and smiled again.
Though Dominic wasn't on any team, over time, he became very good friends with the trainers. Even though he did not have the level to compete, his determination was quite impressive. Impressive enough to set an example to the other riders that were racing at a much higher level. One of the trainers, Mr. Theirry Baquet, told his athletes: “If any of you were to train like Dominic, all of you would have been world champion by now.”
Because of the example that Dominic was setting to the French riders, Theirry began to train Dominic seriously as if he were to be one of his own riders. Dominic had to re-learn how to ride a bike from the very beginning. Dominic was humbled and listened to the guidance of his new trainer. While everyone on the team was riding against a stopwatch on the track (doing the cool stuff), Dominic was doing a thousand “bunny hops” on a sidewalk focusing on his form. Eventually, Theirry moved Dominic to the track and continued teaching him the basics. Dominic’s progress was immense. Every month he was like an unrecognizable rider. Though he wasn't winning any races, his training had gotten to a point where if one of the “better” riders were to make a mistake, Dominic was right there to take advantage and leave them in the dust. A few months later, Dominic was now at a point where he was able to qualify for the elite races at the French Championships and European Championships. Dominic eventually began to be feared and respected as one of the top riders in France. His coach was no longer training him for the purpose of motivating his team. Rather, he began to believe that if Dominic continued his progression, to the surprise of all of French riders, he could eventually become one of the best riders in the world. Fellow rider Yann said, “If someone would have told me that the kid from Canada that came to live in my house would have been able to eventually make a main event in the elite class of the French championship, I would not have believed it would be possible.”
Dominic’s dream of being world champion once again became part of his reality. Everyone around him knew where his training would eventually lead. However, though many good things were happening, the reality of financial necessities came to surface and unavoidably, Dominic ran out of money. His budget no longer allowed him to stay in France and train. The time came where Dominic would have had to return home to Canada.
After all of the work Dominic put into his riding, Theirry said, “I don’t care if you have money to stay or not, you are not returning to Québec after all this work. For the sake of your career, and my own curiosity, I want to see if you are going to make it”. Theirry took Dominic into his own home, financially took care of him and allowed him to live with him, his wife, and their 5 children in a three bedroom house for as long as he needed. Theirry gave Dominic the opportunity he needed to achieve his full potential, and Dominic took that opportunity very seriously. He knew he was living in France because he had a job to do. And boy did he do it! Every day, rain or shine, snow or hail, Dominic remained 100% dedicated to his training. He never missed a sprint, technique, or gym session. It was simple: at the races, when other athletes were enjoying whichever country they were in, Dominic spent his time videotaping the track to study it further in his hotel room. At his home in France, when his rider friends were out partying, Dominic was probably already in bed, ready to hit the track first thing the next morning. Everyone could see what Dominic was trying to build and could no longer deny what he would eventually become. Dominic continued to train with Theirry for another 6 months. At the end of the year Dominic raced in the World Championships, and defying all odds, placed 2nd in the World.
Shortly after his stunning performance, Dominic was offered a sponsorship by a professional racing team called R-Trax, a French clothing company. The company would finance all of Dominic’s expenses and would provide him a salary. R-Trax sent him all over the world to race in exchange for representing their brand of clothing. Dominic had made it. He was a professional BMX racer making a living doing what he always wanted to do.
A year later, Dominic moved to Aix en Provence ville D’Avignon. He found a job as a trainer for the club Avignon Les Angles. The president of the club, Jean Marc Villette, allowed Dominic to stay in his home for the time it took to get all of the paperwork situated to receive a working visa. Dominic lived in Avignon for a total of 3 years. After a total of 5 years racing in France, Dominic moved to the U.S. in 2004. Dominic had to learn how to speak English, and continued to make a living racing for a team called Sarasota Schwinn in Florida.
A year later, Dominic’s beloved father, trainer, mentor, and friend passed away. Yvon was teaching a BMX clinic,demonstrating a specific technique to the next generation of champions, when his heart suddenly failed. On that same track where it all started, Yvon’s life had ended.
Yvon’s death was devastating for Dominic. He had always been a mentor for him and his death put an end to Dominic’s racing career. Dominic said, ‘‘My dad and I were always racing together, even when I was racing in Europe. All of what we’ve accomplished, we accomplished together. If I failed, he failed. If he failed I failed. If now was the time for my dad to go live with the Lord, it means to me that it is also my time to look for a new direction and build something different with my life.” Dominic retired from racing in 2005 and moved his focus toward becoming a musician, like his dad once was.
To this day, Dominic earns his living playing the bass guitar and resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his two sons, Luc-Antoine and Leopold. Dominic is married to his wonderful wife Tracy that just gave birth to his very first daughter, ZoaJade.