Dave Mirra, a trailblazer who brought international recognition to BMX, died Thursday at age 41 of what the police believe to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The tragic event took place in the heart of "Protown," a BMX athlete haven he helped form in Greenville, North Carolina.
Growing up in upstate New York, Mirra became a professional BMX rider at 18 and began his rein during the X-Games, where he won 24 medals, holding the record for most honors up until 2013. He also holds the second-most X-Game gold medals, 14, just behind Shaun White's 15.
During San Francisco's X Games in 2000, Mirra landed the very first double backflip in competition, earning him the nickname "Miracle Man" after the games. His incredible domination during those competitions garnered him attention from outside the sports world as well, leading him to be approached by developers Acclaim Entertainment to be the face of his own video game title. Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX was released in 2000, and along with Mirra's charisma on stage, helped inspire a whole new generation to find biking.
"It's all progressing right now, and it's awesome to see all this stuff, all the people come here and watch it and be so interested in it," Mirra was quoted saying about the growth of BMX. During this time he was seemingly everywhere, hosting two seasons of MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge, appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman, and even getting Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher. But in recent years he moved away from the spotlight to focus on rally car racing, Ironman competitions, and his two daughters with his wife, Lauren. During his years living in Greenville, he became just as beloved in the community as he was by BMX fans.
"We mourn the loss today of a great friend and wonderful human being who touched the lives of so many around the world with his gift," said Allen Thomas, mayor of Greenville, said in a statement on Thursday. "He called Greenville, North Carolina, home and was as humble a guy talking with kids on a street corner about bikes as he was in his element on the world stage. A young life with so much to offer was taken too soon."
Since the news hit, the sports world, from Tony Hawk to Shaun White, has shared heartfelt messages. But the most touching tribute came from fellow BMX pro Carey Hart on his Instagram: "Waking up to the realization this morning that Dave is gone is absolutely heartbreaking. I was telling my wife that most of the best memories from my career have Dave involved one way or another, and it's always a funny memory. Dave was such a genuine dude. He always had a smile on his face and cracking jokes, unless he was in contest mode. He was the fiercest competitor I have ever met. Unfortunately I haven't seen Dave much since he retired, but I guess that's what happens in life. Wish I had known something was wrong and he knew he had some to talk to. I understand the battle w/ depression. I tame mine with therapy and family. I'm mad as hell at you for doing this, and my heart absolutely shatters for your daughters and wife. But I will cherish our time together and the many good times we had. Ride in Paradise, Dime Bag. You will be greatly missed."