FORT MILL — Who says watching TV isn’t good for you? For 14-year-old Sam Kophazi, it was life changing.
Kophazi was watching TV with his dad, Dan, one day when he was 6 years old. They were flipping through channels and saw a cycling race in progress. Kophazi was instantly hooked.
“It looked fun,” said Kophazi, a rising freshman at Nation Ford High School.
Kophazi wanted to ride, so he talked to his parents for awhile about getting a road bike and they finally did.
Unlike the way it is for most kids, cycling wasn’t just a phase he was going through. So after three years of riding, Kophazi competed in his first sanctioned race at the age of 9 in Greenville.
“When I bike, I feel free,” he said. “There is nothing on my mind. I got on a bike for the first time and I loved it.”
Kophazi’s passion for cycling has come a long way in the past five years. He recently grabbed several top-five finishes in the 13- to 14-year-old age group at the USA Cycling Junior Track Nationals in Pennsylvania, including a second in the points’ race and finished third overall in his age group.
Kophazi, who trains every day by riding between 35 and 40 miles on the road or 20 to 30 miles at the Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill, rides for Les Amis/Calder Brothers Corporation out of Greenville. His longest ride at one time has been a 100-mile trek.
“Joining a team has really helped me a lot and given me a lot of support,” he said.
Not only does Kophazi compete in road races, but also enjoys track racing like the kind you would find at the Velodrome.
“I would take racing at a track over a road race,” he said.
Kophazi said he likes the action of a sprint race, which you find at the Velodrome, but also the type of fast-paced racing you find in a criterium
“It’s fun and it gets your adrenaline going,” he said. “Criterium are more action packed and fast.”
Kophazi has done well for his age, but knows there is a lot more work to do to get where he wants to go.
By age 16, he said he would like to be competing for a spot on the U.S. national team. But that would be just the beginning, he said.
“I want to podium at nationals and I hope to sign a contract with a pro team,” he said.
Kophazi won’t be distracted by other sports, as he doesn’t compete in anything else. He can’t, really, due to time constraints. He competes mostly March through November, in up to 60 races a season.
So as Kophazi clips into his bike and hits the road, his future may already be paved like the roads he races on.