Felicia Stancil Worlds Preview
Team USA

Felicia Stancil Is Back, and She Wants That World Title

By: Jim Rusnak  July 26, 2022

After suffering from a dislocated hip earlier in the year, Stancil has made it back on the BMX Racing World Cup podium just in time for the World Championships.

In January of this year, Felicia Stancil experienced the most painful, debilitating injury she’s ever suffered in her 23 years of BMX racing. It kept her off the track for about four months, but the second the doctor cleared her to go, she jumped right back into training and racing full time.

She’s competed in three races in the last 10 weeks, and now she’s in a five-week, deep training block in Florida, preparing for the UCI BMX Racing World Championships, July 30-31 in Nantes, France.

“We’re close to the level (where I was),” Stancil said. “I still think I can get better. I’ve been cleared for like 10 weeks now. Everything is going smoothly, and I think it just all might hopefully line up well for World Champs soon.”

After a successful 2021 that saw her win her first USA BMX national title, finish fourth at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, seventh at worlds, and third on the UCI World Cup circuit, she took the entire month of December off to decompress a little bit and spend time with family.

Then on January 14, she went to a race in Florida. Even after taking that month off, Stancil said her speed was still there, and she was ready to race. She won the first three rounds of her qualifying motos and was winning the main event going into the first turn when two of the racers behind her collided and hit her back tire. It happened just as Stancil was jumping into the first turn, and her body launched and landed on the asphalt berm.

“It was the most painful thing I experienced in my entire life,” Stancil said. “That was a rough day – I’m not going to lie. Talking about it brings tears sometimes. It’s tough. You can’t move at all. Of course me, being super stubborn, I had adrenaline going because it was a final, and I didn’t want to be dramatic. They asked me if I needed an ambulance, and I denied the ambulance for the first 20 minutes because I had no idea my hip was dislocated. I thought it could have been a tiny fracture. But then when my adrenaline went away, the pain was increasing, and I couldn’t even talk. It was that bad. And then I was rushed to the ER.”

There, they did a cat scan and found out everything was fine, except Stancil’s leg was not in her hip. They had to knock her out with an anesthetic to put it back into place. She also suffered a small micro-fracture in the head of her femur as a result of the dislocation. As painful as it was, she was lucky in that the MRI revealed her injury to be a 3 on scale of 1-10 in terms of severity. Still, doctors told her there was about a 20 percent chance that she would need a total hip replacement due to potential complications associated with the injury. She had to be very careful with the healing process and take it really, really slow.

Thus began the longest road to recovery from an injury Stancil’s had in her entire career. After her first two weeks on crutches, she got just enough physical strength back to start walking and began physical therapy three times a week, working on mobility, balance and maintaining as much strength as possible.

Part of her rehabilitation included leg presses, which in the beginning were humbling for an athlete who typically squats one and a half times her bodyweight.

“In January, I was doing leg presses of like 40 pounds,” Stancil said. “That’s all I could do. It was eye-opening of how severe the injury was for a professional BMX racer at my level not being able to leg press even a tenth of the weight I normally could.”

It took three months for her to finally feel strong enough to get under the squat rack for the first time, but her follow-up MRI results showed that everything healed perfectly. She would not need the hip replacement. It was a relief. She threw herself into her training full-time.

Since then, Stancil’s raced three weekends in the last 10 weeks — first at the BMX Legacy Nationals May 13-14 in Tulsa, Okla., where she finished fifth and third; the USA Cycling National Championship on May 15, where she grabbed the silver; then at the UCI BMX Racing World Cup May 28-29 in Glasgow, where she just missed out on the finals; and the World Cup stop June 11-12 in Papendal, Netherlands, where she finally was back on the podium.

“I think it was really, really good for me just to jump straight back into it,” Stancil said. “I just missed a lot of the culture and just racing in general. My speed wasn’t like it was before my injury, but I was still in good condition. I put a lot of focus into my training since I was cleared, so I was still up there in the pack and got a couple podiums, so I want to just keep progressing."

Mentally, she’s also put her crash and her injury behind her. “In BMX racing, risk is always part of the sport,” Stancil said. “But to fully move on from an injury as severe as mine, I think I fully have to understand how the injury happened. I looked at videos of the crash, and I was pretty much just unlucky. I didn’t do anything wrong on my part. To understand how the crash occurred helped me get past that.”

With each race, with each passing day in training, she’s beginning to feel like the old Felicia Stancil again. Each race brings its own a challenge, and she says she can feel her speed getting back to where it used to be.

“I just got on a world cup podium, so I’m almost where I need to be,” Stancil said. “But I’m happy I have this big 5-week block of training before World Champs to progress even further.”

The World Championships in France will be a big race for Stancil. Not only will it be a measurement of how far she’s come since her crash, but for all her accomplishments over the years—she won every single World amateur title between the ages of 8 and 18 except two due to injury—the Elite World title is one that’s eluded her.

She said she doesn’t care if she has to race another 20 years. She wants to win that world title.

“That’s probably my biggest goal,” Stancil said. “I’m more motivated now than ever, just to get a world title for the USA… I’ve put myself in good contention, and I’m very confident in all my hard work with the possibilities of what I can accomplish. I love the process of training. I’m truly obsessed with it, and deep down I believe I can achieve these things. On race day, I’ve just got to let it go.”

Watch the 2021 UCI BMX Racing World Championships live July 30-31st.