2013-02-22 / Sports

Meet Slade, motocross champion

Eight-year-old wins title in front of 41,000 fans at Angels Stadium
By Gilberto Manzano

NICE HARDWARE—Slade Varola, 8, holds up the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge first-place trophy he won at Angels Stadium on Feb. 2. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers NICE HARDWARE—Slade Varola, 8, holds up the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge first-place trophy he won at Angels Stadium on Feb. 2. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers When Slade Varola is on his motocross bike, he knows no fear.

Slade, 8, has no limits when it comes to taking steep jumps.

“He’s insane,” said Mitchell Staben, Slade’s motocross trainer.

“He’s attempting jumps big guys would never try. Sometimes I forget he’s 8 years old. He’ll try any jump”

Slade isn’t just a one-trick pony—he’s also a beast on the race track.

The Simi Valley youngster won the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge in front of 41,000 fans at Angels Stadium on Feb. 2.

“I was kind of nervous,” Slade said. “I told myself it was a regular race. I tried to stay calm. Once I won, it felt so amazing.”

The young riders were content to be in the pit with the top Supercross riders, including Ryan Villopoto, James Stewart and Ryan Dungey.

Not Slade. He was all business.

“Everyone was jumping around and excited,” said Slade, a second-grader at Garden Grove Elementary. “I just went to a corner by myself and focused on the race. After I won, that’s when I got excited and started getting autographs.”

Slade dominated the three-lap race, despite feeling sick.

“He looked like a professional rider out there,” said Cori Varola, 33, Slade’s mother. “We had a section filled with friends and family that came out to watch Slade. We were all excited and very proud of him.

“He had confidence in himself and that’s why he won.”

Slade’s race appeared on live television on the Speed Channel. It was only for a few seconds, but Slade was able to do his victory lap and a celebratory fist pump before his television debut ended.

The KTM Junior Supercross Challenge returned to Monster Energy Supercross events after a five-year hiatus.

“It’s a good thing KTM brought back the junior challenge,” said Danny Varola, 43, a former rider and Slade’s father. “This will get more kids involved in the sport. It’s very hard to become a professional motocross rider.

“Slade puts in a lot of effort. He’s out training every chance he gets.”

Slade receives top-notch training from Staben, Scott Martin and Drew Gosselaar.

The Simi Valley boy was born to be on a bike.

Slade didn’t need training wheels when he started riding a bicycle at 2.

He jumped into motocross at age 4.

“It was never my intention to have Slade compete or at least this young,” Danny Varola said. “We had a friend ask us to let Slade compete in a race his son was in.

“Slade lapped the competition. Once he got a taste of victory, we weren’t able to get him off the bike.”

The youngster’s first love was baseball, but the pace of the game was too slow.

Slade, whose favorite riders are Villopoto and Ken Roczen, enjoys snowboarding, golfing and bowling.

Besides being a professional Supercross rider, Slade wants to become a mathematician.

“We let Slade be on the bike all the time, but school comes first,” Cori Varola said. “He loves dealing with numbers. Math is his strong subject. Slade likes to have fun and is always helping others.”

Cori Varola said she worries about her son getting injured, but she said Slade could handle it.

Slade broke his arm while on his motocross bike two years ago.

He was sidelined for two months.

“That was so hard for me,” Slade said.

“I can’t go longer than a day without riding. I know I could get hurt, but I don’t think about it. I love to be on my bike. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.”

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