07/25/09 — The World's best: Coley, Team USA bring home gold Cup

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The World's best: Coley, Team USA bring home gold Cup

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 25, 2009 11:01 PM

Slowly twisting an aqua blue square earring, Justin Coley sat quietly and stared into open space.

The gaze wasn't from jetlag due to a long plane trip from Belgium.

His eyes twinkled and a slight grin curled his lips as he thought about the final two days of his memorable journey. Though the reality seems unbelievable, it's undoubtedly true -- Coley is a world champion on the MotoX scene.

"I think it's all kind of hitting me now," said Coley, whose blond locks looked disheveled after a long sleep. "It didn't really register until we got home. It was crazy over there, definitely an experience I'll never forget."

A motorcross competitor for eight years, Coley was asked to represent Team USA at the MX Masterkids -- the largest MotoX championship event in Europe. Team manager Mike Burkeen chose Coley for more than his abilities on a motocross track.

Burkeen expected Coley to add to Team USA's rich tradition.

"We had a very strong team for 2009 and while the individual championships are important, our goal was to bring back to the USA the trophy we won in 2006," said Burkeen. "Team USA has a storied history with the European fans of the event, the competitors and the promoters for being gracious in victory and respectful in defeat. I was confident Justin's effort would help the 2009 team continue to spread the goodwill that Team USA is famous for at this event."

Coley seized gold in Open Class competition and the USA earned enough top-three finishes to return home with the World Cup.

"It's pretty cool," said Coley.

However, the 18-year-old confessed the final race nearly wrecked his chances of winning the Open Class gold medal.

One of 20-plus competitors in the final, Coley adjusted his headgear and revved the engine as he waited for the gate to drop. Once it fell, Coley found himself caught in a pack of riders.

"I had a slow reaction time ... not a good start," said Coley.

One by one he picked off his competitors and took over the lead by the fifth lap. Coley found his groove and created some working room against the other riders.

As the white flag waved to signal the final lap, Coley got knocked off the track by a lapped rider.

"I wasn't too happy about that," said Coley.

But he recovered and emerged victorious.

"The competition was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be," said Coley. "I've heard people talk about it in the past and they said the classes really weren't that strong. But when I got there, I realized there were easily 20 or 30 other people who could win.

"It was close."

Coley never envisioned becoming a world champion in a sport dominated by riders with considerably more experience. He got started at eight years old after watching his dad, Tony, and friends bounce around the dirt track.

No more throwing a football or hitting a baseball.

"One day I decided I wanted to ride and do it just for fun," said the 5-foot-6, 130-pound Coley. "Then, I got a little serious and my dad quit riding. I got even more focused."

Coley began working out, running, learning more about the MotoX racing scene and swimming. He races with Twin County Suzuki Motorsports in Rocky Mount and is considered a professional in the amateur ranks. He hopes to jump into the pro division.

Next is a national championship event, scheduled two weeks from now in Hurricane Hills, Tenn. -- the home of country music legend Loretta Lynn.

"I'm just trying to get out there and have fun," said Coley. "It's a lifestyle where you don't have a lot of free time, but I do get to hang out with my girlfriend and friends.

"I hope I have a future in MotoX, especially the way things look right now. But that can change. I am hoping to go back (to Belgium) and defend the title. That would be nice."