Big Day For American BMX Riders As Sport Debuts
Source: USA TODAY By Sal Ruibal
BEIJING ? The action sport of BMX bicycle racing made its Olympic debut Wednesday with lots of thrills and spills.
The thrills came from the close-quarters racing that had big people on little bikes elbow to elbow in tight turns and big jumps.
PHOTO GALLERY: Action from Wednesday’s BMX
INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: A look at the Olympic BMX track
RESULTS: Track the BMX finishes
GOLD STANDARD: Meet rider Kyle Bennett
For American fans, the biggest jolt came from getting all four racers into Thursday’s final rounds. The possibility of matching the 2002 snowboard halfpipe super sweep ? all three men’s medals plus a women’s gold ? was still alive.
Mike Day has his own streak going, winning all three heats in his group.
Using a special Olympic Edition GT BMX bike, the 6-foot-3 Day powered the 20-inch machine to the hole shot, holding back the baying pack of riders as he zoomed around the course well out of harm’s way.
Day has a reputation as a great BMX time trialist, but with sketchy race skills. His decision to own the front of the race left him free to race away from traffic.
“I felt super today,” Day said. “I’m just trying to keep that same focus on Thursday.”
The men made it to Day Two despite two spills, the first from Donny Robinson in the first heat that put him in sixth place, with only the top four from three heats advancing.
Robinson recovered to hold on to place second and third in next heats.
Kyle Bennett, a three-time world champion, cruised through first two heats but crashed hard in the first turn of the third, separating his left shoulder. Team doctors pushed the shoulder back into place and Bennett slowly pedaled around the course to the finish line. Race officials declared his run to be a DNF ? Did Not Finish ? but head enough points from the previous heats to join his teammates in Thursday’s semifinals. The USA is the only nation to qualify three riders to a semifinal round.
USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson said Bennett was receiving care from a team physician and while his prognosis was good, a decision on his fitness to race would not be made until Thursday morning.
“He’s getting the best possible care,” Johnson said.
Jill Kintner did her part and kept her cool in the Beijing heat, claiming seventh and moving on to the women’s quarterfinals, and perhaps beyond, on Thursday.
“There are so many people in the stands,” she said. “I do get jittery when they chant U-S-A, U-S-A. But what a great venue for people to see BMX for the first time.”
One thing that could keep the American male riders from a sweep is their placement in the semifinals: they’re all in the same bracket.
Kintner has a slightly easier path to the finals, as she’s in a different bracket from top-seed Anne-Caroline Chausson of France. Chausson, like Kintner, is a former mountain bike world champion.
“This is my last race, ever,” Chausson said. “It’s all been my focus for the last three years. It was my goal to come here and represent this new sport. It is a fun discipline, like (2004 Olympic sport) snowboard cross. Being a fast, spectacular sport, it suits young people’s expectations.”v