The Glaswegian BMX rider whose redemptive story has hit Hollywood

John Buultjens fell in love with cycling when he saw ET as a kid. Now he hopes a film about his life will inspire a new generation

By Jonathan Drennan for Behind the Lines

John Buultjens, a Glaswegian who made his name and fame by riding and designing BMX bikes, is standing outside his home in San Diego. The sun is shining and the sea air is clean and fresh. It’s a world away from where he grew. up “One of my earliest memories is the stench of waste in the streets,” he recalls. “It was in the middle of a bin-men’s strike. I remember streets that smelt of rotten rubbish and rats clambering around our feet. It summed up the mood of desperation. My childhood was a study in survival.”

Buultjens’ early years do not make for easy listening, even when you know there is a happy ending to come many years later. “When I was three years old, I remember running to see my dad – excited to see him – and he just threw me into a fire. I still remember feeling my flesh on my foot burning. There was always a constant fear at home growing up. Just before Christmas in 1979, when I was seven years old, my dad was beating up my mum and I ran in with a kitchen knife to defend her. I was ready to kill him but ended up getting knocked out cold. That was the end up of my time in that house.”

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