Maris Strombergs is an Olympic champion twice over, after successfully defending his Olympic title at the BMX event at the Olympic Park BMX Track in London. Strombergs won the first BMX Olympic title at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, making him the only man to win the Olympic BMX gold medal. Prior to his BMX wins, Strombergs' home nation of Latvia had won only one other Olympic gold medal in its history.
Maris Strombergs was born in 1987 in Valmiera, Latvia, a nation of just of two million people. He first started riding bicycles at the age of five, encouraged by his father to take up the sport. His initial dislike of cycling was soon overcome, and wins in BMX races soon followed. In 2005, at the age of 18, Strombergs was to become the European Junior BMX champion. In 2008, Strombergs won both the European and World Championships as an adult. His career continued to rise with a second World Championships victory in 2010, and the number one ranking in the UCI World Cup in the same year.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Strombergs progressed through to the final and started the final by storming into an early lead. Safe at the front of the pack, Strombergs did not relinquish his lead as his rivals crashed in the massed pack behind him. His first Olympic victory was won with a time of 36.190 seconds. American riders Mike Day and Donny Robinson finished second and third in 2008.
At the London 2012 Games Strombergs had found the qualifying rounds difficult to pass through, following a poor result in the time trial for seeding. Entering the final, world champion Sam Willoughby of Australia and Raymon van der Biezen of the Netherlands were expected to challenge for victory. Team GB also hoped Liam Phillips, of the host nation, could mark a return from injury with victory. Eventually, following more crashes, Maris Strombergs led for the majority of the race to finish with his second Olympic gold medal.
Following his victory in 2008, Strombergs became a national hero in his native Latvia. He was given the honor of carrying the nation's flag at the Closing Ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. Despite participating in the Olympics since 1924, Strombergs is only the second athlete to win gold at the Olympics for Latvia; athletes from the country were forced to participate under the Soviet Union's flag previously.
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.
- Sports & Recreation
- 2008 Beijing Olympics