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Crashes, upsets mark BMX Olympic debut
August 22, 2008 12:50 IST
Anne-Caroline Chausson of France [Images] and Latvian Maris Strombergs won gold medals in the debut Olympic finals of BMX on Friday after crash-filled runs that showed the extreme edge of the rough and tumble sport.
Chausson, a veteran rider who came out of retirement to compete in the Olympics [Images], won the gold after favorite Shanaze Reade of Britain crashed out in the final curve as she was trying to cut inside to overtake the Frenchwoman.
Chausson's team mate Laetitia Le Corguille won the silver and American Jill Kintner took the bronze in an exciting day of racing marked by spectacular crashes and frenetic jostling for position as eight riders raced down the course at once.
"I was very fast on the track today," Chausson said. "Unlike other days, I managed to disable Reade."
Just a few minutes later, in front of a packed, cheering stadium, Strombergs beat the Americans at their own sport to win the men's event. The Latvian managed to avoid two big crashes in the final that left several riders splayed out on the course.
American Mike Day took silver and his team mate Donny Robinson won the bronze.
"I was very cool and concentrated," said Strombergs, who took the lead early and managed to safely navigate the steep, banked curves. "I was just trying to take the gate and come out first. I just raced my race and it came out for the best."
South African Sifiso Nhlapo crashed after the biggest jump of the track and took out a few other riders. He also got hit in the head by the wheel of one rider who managed to avoid falling.
Robinson, who had a hard tumble in the last semi-final run, avoided Nhlapo then pushed his way into third.
Nhlapo's coach Edward Harding said: "He's world class and he's proved it. Sifiso is a young, strong Zulu boy, nothing is going to crush his spirit."
The riders all hailed BMX's entry into the Olympics.
"I don't know if people were ready for it or expecting it but I think when it went down it was a real exciting sport to watch," said Kintner.
"This is a really exciting course and a lot of people were entertained so: 'mission accomplished'."
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