The BMX cycling event at the London 2012 Olympic Games concluded in dramatic fashion, with crashes and mistakes leading to a second Olympic gold for Maris Strombergs, and a first Olympic gold medal for Colombia's Mariana Pajon. Only the second Colombian ever to win an Olympic gold medal, Pajon was joined in her celebrations by fellow Colombian Carlos Mario Oquendo Zabala, who finished third in the men's final.
Progressing through the men's semifinals, the majority of the favorites for medals found themselves in the final of the men's BMX event. Defending Olympic champion Maris Strombergs, 2012 world champion Sam Willoughby, and the Netherlands' Raymon van der Biezen all found their way through the semifinals. They were joined by the form rider entering the Olympics, Connor Fields of the U.S., and the host nation's only male entrant, Liam Phillips.
At the start, atop an eight meter ramp, Phillips powered forward to third position despite having the worst starting lane. The Briton entered the first jump with seemingly too much pace and never recovered, crashing on the second turn; eventually, Phillips would complete the course over one minute and thirty seconds behind the eventual winner, Latvia's Maris Strombergs. The champion in the debut BMX event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Strombergs is the only winner of the men's event at the Olympics. Second place went to Australia's Sam Willoughby, who had won the World Championships earlier this year, an event that saw Phillips break his collarbone. Third place went to the Colombian Oquendo Zabala. Raymon van der Biezen, the fastest man in qualifying who had progressed easily through the earlier rounds, could only finish the race fourth.
The host city hoped Great Britain's Shanaze Reade, a three time world BMX champion, could win a medal in London. Reade qualified with the second fastest time; her time was only bettered by Australia's Caroline Buchanan, the current UCI World Cup points leader. Reade started slowly, eventually finishing in sixth position. The 2011 World Champion Mariana Pajon won in a time of 37.706 seconds for the 440 meter course. Behind Pajon, Sarah Walker of New Zealand finished in silver medal position, and Laura Smulders of the Netherlands third. Buchanan eventually finished in fifth place, with Brooke Crain of the U.S. in eighth.
Paul Cartmell has been riding in a variety of bicycle disciplines, including road racing, mountain bikes and BMX as an amateur for over twenty years.
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