Arielle Martin: Mormon Athlete
Arielle Martin Verhaeren is a BMX cyclist and has competed with the goal in mind to make it to the Olympics.
Martin was born on July 30, 1985, and is a native of Cedar Hills, Utah. She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her father was a BMX racer and she started riding a BMX bike at the age of two. She turned professional at age 15. On her road to the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, China, she crashed in the quarter-finals of the World Championships held in Taiyuan, China, and her friend and roommate at the Olympic Training Center, Jill Kintner, won a place on the US BMX Olympic Team (one point above Martin) and won a bronze medal, which she says was half won by Martin because Martin continued to help Kintner train.
Missing those Olympic Games drove Martin to make it to the 2012 London Games and she was an example of determination and perseverance. She won a spot on the US Olympic Team and on her final day of training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, she lost her dream a second time. Her chain either broke or fell off and she flew through the air and landed on her stomach. She punctured a lung and had a grade-four liver laceration (grade five being considered fatal). With her life-threatening injury, her place on the team was given to another athlete. Prior to going into her first surgery, Elder M. Russell Ballard and the San Diego Mission President Paul Clayton administered to her.
Martin married Mike Verhaaren in December 2007. After several days in the hospital in San Diego in 2012, he took her back to their home in Washington where he cared for her. Soon after her accident, she told the Deseret News:
- Obviously the heartbreak is still raw. I'd probably be lost without my faith; it's the only thing keeping me going, the knowledge that the Lord must have an alternate plan for me. So right now I'm just trying my best to get healthy and stay optimistic. It's not always easy; I still have tears and disappointment . . . feelings of failure and injustice that it's slipped through my fingers now twice, but I'm reminded every day that BMX isn't all that I am. I'm still young with a bright future ahead of me, and many goals to come both in and outside of the sport of cycling that I plan to accomplish.
Martin sustained numerous injuries during her twenty-three-year career. One of her surgeries was performed by Eric Heiden, the Olympic speed skating star who became an elite surgeon.
Although Martin is mostly retired, she does occasionally compete. She joined the USA Cycling BMX Sport Committee in 2013 and now is a board member. She earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise science from BYU in 2007. She and her husband are the parents of one daughter.