The Only U.S. Winner of an Olympic Mountain Biking Medal

Yahoo Contributor Network

Susan DeMattei won the bronze medal in the women's mountain biking event at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. This was the Olympic debut for mountain biking; since this first event no American has managed to win a medal. The sport, in both the men's and women's events, has been dominated by European riders.

Mountain Biking

A relatively young sport, mountain biking has been in existence since the 1970s. The sport grew in California, particularly the area around San Francisco. In 1990, mountain biking was recognized by the International Cycling Union, and the first UCI World Championships were held. As the popularity of the sport grew at a fast rate the International Olympic Committee entered the sport into the Olympics beginning in 1996, in Atlanta.

The format of mountain bike racing at the Olympics has not changed since its debut in Atlanta. Both the men's and women's events are staged on the same track, with a single race for each gender. The first competitor to cross the finish line after completing the specified number of laps of the course is declared the winner. In London, the mountain biking event will be held on a 4.7 kilometer course created specifically for the Olympics at Hadleigh Park.

Susan DeMattei

American Susan DeMattei has been mountain biking since the 1980s, when she began to focus on the sport instead of the triathlon. Following the recognition of mountain biking by the UCI, DeMattei featured in the top positions of professional events. Her accomplishments included top three finishes in each championship series but one each season between 1990 and 1996. In 1994, DeMattei had also won the silver medal at the World Championships.

Entering the 1996 Atlanta Games, DeMattei was a world renowned mountain bike cyclist. Her chance of a medal was not thought to be as high as her teammate Juli Furtado, who had dominated the sport since 1990. Eventually, Furtado failed to medal, leaving Susan DeMattei to finish third and become the first, and so far only, American to win an Olympic mountain biking medal.

Paola Pezzo

The 1996 Olympic Games were the last stage of Susan DeMattei's career, she retired from racing after the Olympics. In contrast, the winner of the gold medal in Atlanta, Italian Paola Pezzo began a period of domination of the sport of mountain biking, following the Olympics. After her win at the Atlanta Olympics Pezzo would win every event she entered until the end of the 1997 season. The Italian would eventually win the 1997 World Cup series in mountain biking.

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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