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2016 Olympic Coverage: BMX

Filed under General on August 17, 2016 | Comment(s)

 


FIRST UP: MEET TEAM USA

 

 Alise Post

• Date of birth: 1/17/1991       • Height: 5'2"     • Weight: 125 lbs

• Education: University of San Diego      • Birthplace: St. Cloud, Minn.

• Residence:  Chula Vista, Calif.       • Team/Sponsors: Redline Bicycles 

In 2006 she was voted "Rookie Pro of the Year" by the readers of BMXer Magazine. Up until this point, this honor had been exclusively reserved for males. In 2015, she was voted “Pro of the Year” for the Golden Crank Awards - the first female to ever win it. 

Her family has been the driving force behind the development and growth of Pineview Park BMX track in St. Cloud, Minn., which was turned from a vandalized city park into one of the best BMX facilities in the country.

Alise currently holds eight National No.1 titles in USA BMX; four as an amateur and four as a No.1 Pro. After winning the National Championship in her first two years as a pro (2006 and 2007), she went through a seven year drought before she would recapture the No.1 Pro title - in 2014, and then repeated in 2015. A win in 2016 could make her the most Championship-winning racer in the history of the sport of BMX.

Brooke Crain

• Date of birth: 4/29/1993         • Height: 5'4"       • Weight: 115 lbs

• Hometown: Visalia, CA        • Team/Sponsors: Haro Bikes/Rockstar Energy/DansComp/Bell

Brooke took to racing at 6 years old after watching her brother race on their local BMX track in Tulare, Calif. After consistently climbing podiums in the age group events, a 16-year-old Brooke solidified her place as a future star in 2009 when she won two world titles and a national championship.

Initially, she just missed earning a place on the 2012 Olympic Team and was named the alternate. When an unfortunate crash in training left Arielle Martin injured and unable to compete just days before the team was to leave for London, Brooke was London bound. She overcame a qualifying round crash to make the main event, placing eighth overall. FOr 2016, she earned her spot on Team USA as the Coaches pick.

Connor Fields

• Date of birth: 9/14/1992          • Height: 6'0"       • Weight: 195 lbs

• Birthplace: Plano, TX             • Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

• Team/Sponsors: Chase Bicycles/Monster Energy

Connor entered the sport of BMX at 7 years old after his mother saw a flyer advertising the local BMX track at a bike shop near their home in Las Vegas. While still in high school, Connor began competing on the World Cup circuit, earning podium finishes in 2009 and 2010. Fields has twice won the time trial world championship (2012 & 2013) and represented Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics - making the main event in London, only to get cut-off by a Dutch rider out of the gate, and then wiping out in the last turn while making a move for fifth place. While it was a disapointing finish for Connor, redemption in Rio has been his goal over the past four years.

Corben Sharrah

• Date of birth: 4/20/1992          • Height: 6'0"        • Weight: 190 lbs

• Education: Pima Community College         • Residence: Tucson, AZ

• Team/Sponsors: Daylight Cycles

Corben Sharrah (pronounced like "hurrah") was only two when his parents brought home a bike that they got from an indiscriminate "big box" store. He’s been hooked on the sport ever since. As a youngster, Corben designed and built a BMX practice track in his backyard to sharpen his skills. While not a full-sized competition track, it included two Supercross-like doubles, a rhythm section, a few rollers of various size and a full set of dirt jumps.

As an amateur, Corben won the 2009 National No.1 Championship in ABA - the most illustrious title for Amateur BMX racers. An avid fan of going fast, Corben is often spotted driving his Corvette Z06 around his home town of Tucson, with his BMX bike attached to the roofrack. Spinning it out at 100mph, he says, is one of the scariest things he has ever done.

In 2012, Corben was the alternate (back-up) rider for the London games - but this time around, he won the U.S. Olympic Trials in Chula Vista with pure domination, to become the second man on Team USA. 

Nic Long

• Date of birth: 10/6/1989        • Height: 6'2"          • Weight: 190 lbs

• Education: Grossmont Community College and Cuyamaca Community College

• Birthplace: San Diego, CA         • Residence: Lakeside, CA

• Team/Sponsors: Haro Bikes/ Dan’s Comp/ Idol Hand Gloves/

Nic started riding BMX bikes through his father, Donavon, who is one of the most successful Team Managers in the sport of BMX - with over ten National No.1 team titles to his name. Nic has always been a consistent member of those winning teams ran by his dad.

Nic won his first UCI Supercross World Cup race in 2008 in Salt Lake City at 18 years old. Prior to turning pro, Long won back-to-back National No.1 Amateur Championships in the ABA - the most illustrious title for any Amateur BMX racer, in 2007 and 2008.

Giving back is an important part of Nic’s life off the bike. He organized his third Homeless Handout in San Diego in early 2014, providing food, blankets and more to people in need.
 

In the weeks leading up to the Rio games, Team USA's fab-five visited the ESPN offices for a cool little feature on SPORTS CENTER (da-da-da, da-da-daa). To check out the segment, go to: facebook.com/USABMX/videos and click on the ESPN Sports Center clip. 


WEDNESDAY: SEEDING RUNS for MEN & WOMEN 

 

After two days of limited practice on Monday and Tuesday - one in which Nic Long showed his freestyle showmanship with an insane frontflip after nose-bonking the first jump, the green-bermed and red straightaways of the Rio Olympic track and Team USA were primed and ready for the Time Trials on Wednesday. 

First up, came the women. And as we'd all come to expect, the defending Gold medalist - Colombia's Mariana Pajon, finished on top with the fastest time of 34.50 - knocking off Australian Caroline Buchanan by .2 of a second. The bronze medalist from London, Laura Smulders (from the Netherlands) rounded out the top-3, while U.S. riders Brooke Crain and Alise Post finished up 7th and 8th. 

1 16 100  COL
PAJON Mariana
34.508    
2 15 68  AUS
BUCHANAN Caroline
34.752 +0.244  
3 13 110  NED
SMULDERS Laura
35.114 +0.606  
4 9 469  VEN
HERNANDEZ Stefany
35.202 +0.694  
5 8 210  DEN
CHRISTENSEN Simone
35.251 +0.743  
6 10 91  BEL
VANHOOF Elke
35.325 +0.817  
7 12 32  USA
CRAIN Brooke
35.345 +0.837  
8 14 11  USA
POST Alise
35.509 +1.001  
9 5 75  NED
VAN BENTHEM Merle
35.644 +1.136  
10 11 21  AUS
REYNOLDS Lauren
35.666 +1.158  
11 6 89  RUS
BONDARENKO Yaroslava
35.682 +1.174  
12 2 971  FRA
VALENTINO Manon
36.377 +1.869  
13 3 39  THA
CARR Amanda
36.464 +1.956  
14 1 53  GER
PRIES Nadja
37.152 +2.644  
15 4 93  BRA
STEVAUX CARNAVAL Priscilla
37.534 +3.026  
16 7 446  ARG
DIAZ Maria Gabriela
40.073 +5.565  

With only 16 female Olympian BMXers, the ladies get a well-deserved "rest-day" on Thursday, and wil go straight to the semi's on Friday morning. 

Following a short break in which bicycle trials riders put on a back-wheel bouncing exhibition while a Brazilian band rocked the arena, the 32 Men lined up for their single lap against the clock.

For much of the TT, Switzerland's David Graf - who has probably the funkiest bike set-iup of all the riders here (disc brakes and a big tire in the rear) wound up with the quickest lap; that is until reigning USA BMX No.1 pro Joris Daudet came along and took it away by a mere .06. The more amazing fact of this is that Joris barely took a pedal down the last straight - and STILL won the seeding! 

This was also the first time for most of us to witness the rider's Olympic uniforms. While we all got to see the U.S. uni's earlier on, it was kind of a shock to see others. The Netherlands, all Troy Lee'd out, looked most like a factory team - rating 5-stars from the USA BMX staff. Meanwhile, the Latvians - of Maris and Tramanus, more resembled a white tuxedo with e very wide Eddie VanHalen-inspired tie. At least they stood out. The Brits, after looking so good in 2012, probably had the most disappointing jersey this year. We'll give them 1/2 a star. Canada's Tory Nyhaug could've been mistaken for a Argentinian, with so much light-blue in his uniform (again). You'd think the Canadians would go more with their traditional red and white, and a huge maple leaf. At least Tory's gloves resembled the look and feel of Canada. And Australia, with their textured material and more turquise of a green, got 4 1/2 stars from our judges. 

Aussie Sam Willoughby and Americans Connor Fields and Corben Sharrah all looked to be riding effortlessly and put in some good times to round out the Top-5 positions.
Here is how the riders wound up:  

Rank

 

Bike #Country / RiderTimeTime behind
1 28 33  FRA
DAUDET Joris
34.617    
2 26 48  SUI
GRAF David
34.678 +0.061  
3 27 91  AUS
WILLOUGHBY Sam
34.714 +0.097  
4 20 11  USA
FIELDS Connor
34.768 +0.151  
5 29 24  USA
SHARRAH Corben
34.893 +0.276  
6 5 148  NED
VAN GENDT Twan
34.933 +0.316  
7 22 81  LAT
STROMBERGS Maris
34.953 +0.336  
8 30 313  NED
KIMMANN Niek
35.070 +0.453  
9 32 64  USA
LONG Nicholas
35.088 +0.471  
10 31 65  GBR
PHILLIPS Liam
35.095 +0.478  
11 25 7  FRA
MIR Amidou
35.248 +0.631  
12 3 993  JPN
NAGASAKO Yoshitaku
35.286 +0.669  
13 16 747  AUS
TURNER Bodi
35.333 +0.716  
14 24 566  COL
OQUENDO ZABALA Carlos Mario
35.341 +0.724  
15 10 572  GER
BRETHAUER Luis
35.379 +0.762  
16 8 500  BRA
REZENDE Renato
35.404 +0.787  
17 7 37  NED
VAN GORKOM Jelle
35.413 +0.796  
18 18 49  CAN
NYHAUG Tory
35.422 +0.805  
19 21 8  COL
RAMIREZ YEPES Carlos Alberto
35.423 +0.806  
20 23 44  AUS
DEAN Anthony
35.445 +0.828  
21 14 211  GBR
EVANS Kyle
35.776 +1.159  
22 11 4  FRA
RENCUREL Jeremy
35.884 +1.267  
23 6 132  VEN
MILANO Jefferson
35.945 +1.328  
24 4 30  DEN
LAUSTSEN Niklas
36.199 +1.582  
25 19 279  NZL
JONES Trent
36.331 +1.714  
26 1 216  RSA
DODD Kyle
36.454 +1.837  
27 13 593  ECU
CAMPO Alfredo
36.463 +1.846  
28 9 40  NOR
NAVRESTAD Tore
36.484 +1.867  
29 15 595  ARG
MOLINA Gonzalo
36.860 +2.243  
30 12 707  RUS
KOMAROV Evgeny
36.958 +2.341  
31 2 45  INA
SYARIFUDIN Toni
40.975 +6.358  
32 17 5  LAT
TREIMANIS Edzus
DNF - crashed.

 


THURSDAY: MENS QUARTERS 

After the seeding TT runs, motos (actually called "quarters" in this event) were posted online - all based on the times the men scored the day before.

The 32 male Olympians were split into their four motos - with the four fastest guys (Joris, Graf, Sam and Connor) taking the top spots in each of the races. Fifth fastest thru 8th would then be seeded in the second slot of those four motos, so-on and so-forth. As it turned out, it appeared by the looks of things that Quarters 1 and 2 would be the toughest, but in reality - all four were equally loaded and stacked.

Other than the competition and the track itself, another major obstacle occurred on Thursday when the riders showed up at the Olympic venue: WIND.

Being located up in the mountains, about an hour drive away from the city, mountainous winds showed up along with thousands of spectators.Despite not having a ticket, the Brazilian security could not hold it back, as it entered the arena and gave racers a strong boost down the first straight. Even without the gusts, riders were already having a hard time with over-clearing the shorter jumps on the Rio track. What they really could've used was a strong tailwind for the second straight - but instead, were greeted to a wall of wind as they exited turn one. This definitely would play a huge roll in the outcome of today's three rounds.  

Starting with the first round of quarters, Liam Phillips - who'd already been recovering from a recent injury, was the first to explode out of the first turn and tested the slidability of the infield astroturf. From the looks of things, it seemed Liam re-injured his collarbone and he'd wind up calling it a day. In the same crash, Maris Strombergs was also involved and flew off-track, having to scramble back on the track, and scored a sixth place. Not quite the way a 2-time Gold medalist would want to start off his day.

The next disaster came in moto #3, first round - where Alfredo Campo (Equador) and Amidou Mir (France) tangled and saw their Olympic dream goes up in smoke. They too, would not get in the gate for the next two rounds.

This Olympics, unfortunately, will forever be remembered for its major upsets. In the second round. the crunch 'n munch continued. France's Joris Daudet - a medal favorite after becoming the No.1 Pro in the U.S., was the first victim of the day, as he collapsed off the edge of the berm jump, unable to clip out.
Simultaneously, former World Champ Niek Kinnman was flailing over the berm jump and what started off as a crazy "Whip Wednesday" photo-op soon turned in to a insane bail-out at 30-feet in the air. Niek's Meybo wound up cusioning his landing on the topside of the asphalt berm, which in turn snapped his forks and launched his twisted front wheel in to the air in a Nascar-like pile-up. Kinnman, now sporting a limp in his step, quickly grabbed what was left of his Dutch National Team bike and ran it to the finish for a 7th.  ...and the crowd went wild! 

For the final rounds, there were plenty of 6-men left motos, except for one: Heat No.4, filled with two of American's finest. Both Corben Sharrah and Connor Fields were up against Aussie's Anthony Dean and Bodie Turner, along with Molina from Argentiana (who is looking strong!), Navrestad from Norway, Evans from the UK and Nagasako from Japan. Dean was looking good and did a fine job of holding off Fields in two of the three motos. Sharrah remained consistent with a 4-3-2, slowly improving as his comfort level rose.

 

The most hotly contested round would be heat No.2., third and final go-round. Switzerland's David Graf, who trains at UCI HQ year-round, came in with 13 points, after a first-round crash with Joris and Maris. Maris entered with 10 points, and seemed slightly shaken after that first roudn shake-up. South Africa's Kyle Dodd, having dodged a few landmines, was sitting nicely with 9 points, while the last-man in, Toni Syarfudin from Indonesia had weaved around the carnage well enough to have 12 points.
As the gate slammed, Maris was off his game and found himself in dead-last down the first straight. Normally, at a regular American race - he'd be shutting it down and would wait for another day. But this was the Olympics - most likely his last shot at Olympic glory, and he got back on the gas and was lined up good on the inside line of the second straightaway. But here's where the wind came in to play: every rider in this round opted to not risk it, and hit their brakes approaching the berm jump. Even leaders Graf and Nyhaug. Despite looking as if he was carrying enough speed, Maris had no choice but to roll it also, and it was a race of muscle and sprint=speed as they cranked out of turn two from a near dead-stop. Sprint speed is something Maris has plenty of, and he blasted he way up to 4th place. Meanwhile, Swiss racer Graf led the race from start to finish. As points would have it, ironically, there would be a 3-way tie with 14 points - and Graf's win gave him the tie-breaker. Latvia and Maris' Olympic quest for a 3-peat were finished. 

This year, we WILL see a new Mens Gold Medalist. Tune in on Friday to find out who.


FRIDAY: MEDAL-TIME!

After scoring 1-1-1 in his quarters - the only BMX Olympian to do so, Sam Willoughby had to be feeling pretty confident. With Joris, Liam and Maris all out of the hunt already, there was a little bit of weight lifted off his shoulders. Yet still, all three Americans and Dutch riders were still in the mix - and nothing is ever a sure thing. This is BMX, afterall, and anything can and will, happen.

Format for the final day of Olympic BMX was the sweet sixteen, both men and women, would run three rounds of semi's, and the eight survivors would go one main for the medals. 

Without a doubt, the biggest major upset today was watching Australia's Caroline Buchanan, not make it to the final. With a crash in her third semi, she missed out on the big show - and looked heart-broken. All of these years, all of the hardwork and anticipation, went out the window. To say that the entire continent of Australia and the entire BMX world were shocked, would be an understatement. 

For the U.S., we were bummed to see Corben Sharrah not make the cut after the three semi's. Actually, he and Nic Long wound up in a 3-way tie with 14 points apiece, for the fourth and final transfer to the main. Long had the better finish of the three, ending Sharrah's hopes and putting Long in the final.

As the women's medal-main lined up and picked their lanes (based on times), seven countries were represented. Team USA, with both Alise and Brooke, were the only country with two riders. The odds were in our favor!

But the girl who had not lost a single lap all week - the one who had the biggest cheers from the crowd, and who had the most on the line, was Mariana Pajon. If you couldn't tell that she was the one to beat, you were in La-la land. But if there was anyone here who could beat the defneding Gold medalist, it was The Beast. Alise had come closest to Mariana in the semis and was even spotted out front of her for just a bit.

As the gate slammed down, the Colombia section of the grandstands, waving the blue, yellow and red flag of their country, exploded with cheers - as Mariana got the holeshot. But right there, on her right grip, was USA's Alise Post. The battled hard, side by side, and aired out the triple in to the first turn as France's Manon Valentino splattered on the track, flying over the bars. USA's Brooke Crain was right in there as well, battling for third place with former World Champion Stefany Hernandez. Knowing the situation back in her home country, Hernandez was out to bring a little bit of sunshine and happiness to her homeland.

As hard as Alise tried, Pajon was just too fired up today. She pulled away, and Alise held on for a great lap to hit the finishline in second. A silver medal was now hers! It was a dramatic moment, considering four years ago, in London, after a crash down the last striaghtaway, Post doesn't even remember hobbling across the finishline being helped by EMT's. 

 

When the men's field lined up, there were no Latvians, no Brits and no Frenchmen in the main. Amazingly, all of those dominnant BMX countries had been shut out. Instead, we had two from the U.S., two from the Netherlands, and two from Australia. Canada and Colombia rounded out the eight. Any of these eight guys could make it happen - and you could feel the intensity as the starter's recorded cadence began. 

Three beeps and they were off and flying! From the inside, it was Nic Long and his Haro carbon in the lead, with Chase's Connor Fields right beside him. Aussie Sam Willoughby was in third and doing his best to attempt a pass on Fields for the two. But Connor would have nothing of it, and the two Americans hit the second straight with the lead. 
Suddenly, the two flyung Dutchmen started pouring on the gas, and things were getting tight as they headed over the berm jump in to turn two. As Connor made a move on Nic for the lead, Jelle VanGorkom diced in low underneath Sam-I-Am. This seeed to drain all of Sam's momentum, and he struggled to get back up to speed. Not the way anybody expected Willoughby's race to go.
Dicing down the rhythm section, Fields took over the lead from Long, and was now fending off his silver-medal spot against the orange TLD colors of VanGorkom. Into the final turn, Connor was free and clear and had a gold medal clean in his sights. Just a few more obstacles and he'd make American BMX history! Long, meanwhile, got an elbow from Jelle as they exited the last turn, leaving a huge door open for Colombia's little Magician; Carlos Rameriz. He's a smaller rider, about the size of Donny Robinson, and he's a sneaky feller. You leave him a hol like that and he's going to go for it. Again, the Colombian crowd went wild, as Rameriz and Long drag-raced to the finish, handlebar to handlebar. Long was the first to push at the line, and might've done so too early - as Carloe shoved for the stripe and wound up getting the bronze-spot by 1/100th of a second.

At first, they called Long for the win and America was thrilled to think we'd matched out 3-medal result from Beijing 2008. Then, they were calling it a tie, and left people wondering how they split a bronze medal in half? Finally, after video and timing review, Carlos the Colombian was crowned the bronze medalist.
While it might have been disappointing for Nic Long - who was likely racing his last Olympics, but Team USA was still victorous with a Gold and Silver - from Fields and Post.   

Afterwards, there was a hashtag that went out - #ProjectRedemption. That really summed it up, after the U.S. was shut-out in London 2012, and went home empty-handed. This time, with four of the 2012 five returning, they were out to redeem not only themselves, but their country's pride and faith in America being the most dominant country in BMX Racing. 

And that, they did. 

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