Trek: Trek At The Olympics: Part Thirteen

2008/08/22

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Day 14-

…and after the rain, follows the sun…

Today was a spectacular day. We woke to cloudless blue skies, sun and a light breeze. It was going to be a good day.  

Yesterday’s rain meant the BMX would be postponed till today. Likewise, as they were concerned for the conditions on the MTB course, the woman’s race was postponed till tomorrow. This left some people scratching their heads, as that is not the way it usually works, but then again this is China and the Olympics and things happen a bit differently here. It can certainly be frustrating, but in China it is always good to maintain a flexible attitude and not get too stressed about schedules and plans. Things usually have a way of working out, but not always the way you think they will or want them to.

The BMX turned out to be awesome. The speed, frantic pace and randomness is all part of what makes it great. Just because you are the best in the world does not mean you are going to win, and just makes it more devastating when you don’t. Shanaze Reade was unfortunately a harsh example of that today. While on her day and with all things going her way she is almost unbeatable, today nothing seemed to go her way. Whether it was trying too hard, nerves and simply bad luck, for anyone who has an ounce of sympathy in them, Shanaze had to have broken their heart. She did mine. To see such a strong capable athlete work so hard and then have such a disastrous failure is tough to witness. However, maybe that is what makes our sport so special.  On any given day, anything can happen.  

From her misfortune came American Jill Kintner’s extreme success. While in some of the semi final heats Jill did very well, in at least one she really struggled. In the final she had a mediocre gate position and really had to fight for her position going into the first turn. From there she fought her heart out and when Shanaze crashed in the final turn she was in the perfect spot to come around her and ride it in for 3rd. Great job…great joy.

China’s hope, Ma Liyun, fought hard, but it was too much to expect that she would realistically be at the top of the sport. However, give her four years and let’s see how she does in London.  

The man of the day had to have been Kyle Bennett. Kyle was crashed out by a competitor two days ago and dislocated his shoulder. He had it relocated trackside and was happy to have the extra day yesterday to recuperate. Although he did not make it through to the final, he raced with strength and grace and then proudly cheered on his teammates. Once again that is part of what makes the sport special and what shows how much of a true Champion Kyle Bennett really is.

American Mike Day was a gold medal favorite and in the qualification heats, he showed why that was. Unfortunately he did not win the final qualification heat and therefore did not have first choice of starting gates. That honor went to Latvian Maris Stromberg, who selected the prime inside position. Mike, who at the US National Championships continually selected the 6th gate, decided to take the 4th and middle gate spot. He felt like starting in the center and going for the hole shot in the first turn would be a good way to go if the inside gate was not available. Donny Robinson, the American who won the Supercross Test Event on the Beijing track a year ago made the final, but was left with the far outside 8th gate going into the final. The World Champion Latvian was clearly dominant and won the race from the front. In the second turn Mike was in second position and Donny was fortunate to have taken a low inside line, which allowed him to avoid the mayhem caused by the South African Sifiso Nhlapo. Sifiso crashed hard just after clearing the jump and took the Australian Jared Graves and French rider Damien Godet down with him. This left the door open to Donny to go through and ride into a bronze medal behind Stromberg and Day. What a great day!

Tomorrow is both the men’s and women’s MTB and everyone seems ready. The track had mostly dried out by the end of the day and the very steep, rock strewn decent they go down at the end of every lap should be ready tomorrow. To give you some idea of how steep it is, today when Georgia Gould was out training, she got to the section and saw Julian Absalon, multi time World Champion, standing at the bottom of the climb preceding the decent and said, “maybe it is too scary today when it is wet. Better to wait for the race tomorrow.” Georgia figured that if he had decided it was best to wait, who was she to question his judgment? After all, seems he knows a thing or two about riding a bike.

Well, that is all for now. Off to go celebrate some medals with the US BMX team. Thanks for reading and we will give you the low down on all the MTB happs tomorrow.

>>>Read Part 12>>>