Colombia and USA rule the track on race day
Mariana Pajon (COL) dominated the women’s race right from the gate-drop. In the men’s race a storming charge down the start ramp by two Americans lead to a thrilling victory for Connor Fields (USA).
Unlike the qualifying rounds, in the BMX final it’s all down to one race. It’s no longer best-of-three. This means in just over 30 seconds a whole career can be made. Or broken.
Women’s Olympic BMX final results
- Mariana Pajon (COL) 34.096
- Alise Post (USA) 34.435
- Stefany Hernandez (VEN) 34.755
- Brooke Crain (USA) 35.520
- Yaroslava Bondarenko (RUS) 36.017
- Elke Vanhoof (BEL) 39.538
- Laura Smulders (NED) 1:52.235
- Manon Valentino (FRA) 2:41.109
First to go was the women’s race. Throughout the seeding and qualifying rounds Colombia’s Mariana Pajon had looked cool, calm, collected and extremely fast. And so it proved to continue in the final itself.
Pajon becomes the first women to win two golds in Olympic BMX.
Right away from the gate-drop Pajon was in the lead. Pajon had qualified in first place so she had first choice of starting position and somewhat unsurprisingly she chose the inside lane.
Pajon was only one of three female riders to attempt to clear the triple at the end of the first straight. Another triple clearer was Alise Post (USA).
The third rider to attempt the triple was Manon Valentino (FRA) who unfortunately came up short, bailed late and stacked it in a rather nasty looking crash. There’ll be slowmo footage of her crash doing the rounds by now we imagine. She did thankfully get up eventually and slowly rolled in over the finish line a few minutes later after everyone else.
There was another crash at the end of the third straight but it wasn’t quite a spectacular. Laura Smulders (NED) front tyre washed out and she hit the ground. Neither of the crashes greatly affected anyone’s race runs or final position. Which makes a change in BMX!
By the time of the second straight the race was all but over. By the final straight there were a few bike lengths between Pajon and Alise Post and the rest of the pack.
Men’s Olympic BMX final results
- Connor FIelds (USA) 34.622
- Jelle Van Gorkom (NED) 35.306
- Carlos Alberto Ramirez Yepez (COL) 35.506
- Nicholas Long (USA) 35.506
- Tory Nyhaug (CAN) 35.657
- Sam Willoughby (AUS) 36.303
- Niek Kimmann (NED) 36.570
- Anthony Dean (AUS) DNF
The men’s race has fewer crashes but was arguably the more exciting race. Where Pajon’s race was a delightful display of a pro in total control, the men’s race had a bit more surprise and emotion to it.
The favourite going into the final was Sam Willoughby (AUS) but he had a terrible start and simply never recovered. It wasn’t so much his reaction time to the gate-drop, it was more a lack of firepower. Or nerves maybe.
Willoughby finished out the medals, way down in 6th spot.
The riders who streaked ahead were the Stars ‘n’ Stripes clad duo of Connor Fields (USA) and Nicholas Long (USA).
For a couple of straights it looked like it would be an American gold and silver. But Long lost a bit of speed in the third straight and the chasers were on to him. And in the final corner a very “professional” move by Jelle Van Gorkom (NED) saw the Dutch rider ‘shut the door’ on Long and steal into second place.
23 year old Las Vegas resident Connor Fields stayed out front and missed all the argy-bargy and crossed the line to take gold. Olympic champion – just like he had stated he would be to his parents when he was a small boy.
For a time it looked like the organisers had decided to award two bronze medal places. For a brief time, joint third were Nicholas Long (USA) and Carlos Alberto Ramirez Yepes (COL).
In the end though, Long was denied by photo finish evidence. Ramirez Yepes’ was clearly a tyre width ahead at the finish line.
Harsh. But that is very much BMX.
Mountain biking next!
The remaining cycling events are the women’s and men’s cross country mountain biking this Saturday and Sunday respectively.
We can’t wait!