Team USA grabs its first Olympic BMX Gold medal when Connor Fields crossed the finish line in first place during the Olympic Games final in Rio. The final saw many position changes after Nic Long grabbed the holeshot being closely followed by Fields. The speed of Fields moved him to first place with Holland’s Jelle van Gorkom in third who gained ground on Long on the third straight rhythm section. In the last turn Van Gorkom made a pass on Long for the silver medal position and Carlos Ramirez started an all or nothing high-low move in the final turn and kicked off a final sprint that got him next to Long on the line. Fields was celebrating his gold medal at this time already while Van Gorkom cheered for silver. It took a while before the bronze medal winner was announced. The time difference between Long and Ramirez was 0.005 seconds. Ramirez’ sprint got him the bronze. After leading half of the final race Long ended up with 4th place.
After the semi-final races Australians Sam Willoughby and Anthony Dean were high favourites going into the one-race final but neither one was in medal position during the main event. After winning every lap in Rio before the finals, Sam finished on a disappointing 6th place and Anthony DNF-d for last place. In an Olympic final 5th or 7th place doesn’t make much of a difference, but Tory Nyhaug (CAN) took spot 5 and Holland’s Niek Kimmann had to settle for 7th.
The Games weren’t going well for Australia in the Women class either. During the 3-race semi finals Caroline Buchanan (AUS) did okay and scored a total of 5 points after two races. On the final and third semi-final race the Australian cased a jump on the first straight which had her bars move forward. She continued to race but hit a wheel in the first corner and went down resulting in another 8 points. The total of 13 wasn’t enough to transfer.
The woman to beat in Rio was obviously Mariana Pajon (COL). Her fans filled up half of the grandstands and weren’t going to be satisfied with anything other than gold. But it’s easier said than done. Sam Willoughby was in a similar position but he didn’t manage to pull it off. Mariana however got a good start and drag raced with Alise Post (USA) to the first turn and got the holeshot being on the inside line. Mariana is such a smooth rider and lead the race all the way to the finish. Post has made mistakes before being in a podium position but fortunately not this time. She was ecstatic and celebrated the silver medal with everyone in her corner. Stefany Hernandez (VEN) made some corner moves that got her to where she needed to be. A podium spot with Bronze was safe when Laura Smulders (NED) crashed out behind her in the last turn just when she was gaining ground on Stefany.
American Brooke Crain finished fourth and 19 year old Yaroslava Bondarenko (RUS) got 5th. The Russian was the youngest BMX rider in Rio and has a good future ahead of her. Elke Vanhoof made the Belgians proud with 6th, Smulders got up and finished 7th. Manon Valentino (FRA) went over the bars on the first straight for 8th place.
Less wind resulted in less crashes and better racing during the final day of BMX in Rio. USA has the gold BMX medal they wanted so bad and it’s going to be a long night of celebrating in Brazil.
1) Connor Fields (USA)
2) Jelle van Gorkom (NED)
3) Carlos Ramirez (COL)
1) Mariana Pajon (COL)
2) Alise Post (USA)
3) Stefany Hernandez (VEN)