Strombergs Becomes First Repeat BMX Champ

LONDON, Aug 10, 2012 (AFP) – Maris Strombergs of Latvia overcame the threat
of a handful of strong, younger challengers to become the Olympics’ first
repeat BMX champion on Friday.

Australian Sam Willoughby finished second for the silver with Carlos
Oquendo of Colombia taking the bronze.

Strombergs, 25, claimed the maiden Olympic men’s BMX gold when the sport
made its debut in Beijing four years ago.

And despite coming up against younger riders who had shown their mettle in
the unforgiving quarter-final and semi-final races, the Latvian stepped up
when it mattered most.

He shot off the eight-metre high ramp and quickly built a slight lead on
the rest of the eight-man field.

Willoughby, 20, was hot on his heels but with several jumps and berms to
negotiate, neither rider was free of danger.

British gold medal hope Liam Phillips came down on the penultimate berm and
struggled to rejoin the field after he could not clip his foot back on to his

It left the hosts without a medal as only minutes earlier Shanaze Reade
could only finish sixth in the women’s final.

Despite Willoughby’s attempt at a late fightback on the closing bumps,
Strombergs held on to triumph.

Before the competition, the Latvian had expressed his doubts in the face of
strong competition.

After winning gold, he said: “It’s so tiring and I still can’t believe it.
Deep inside I was confident but I think my nerves got the best of me,
especially at the beginning of the race yesterday and today.

“But I tried to keep calm and I had a good conversation with my coach
before the last moto (race) and deep inside I was confident.

“It’s amazing. I still can’t believe it. I need a few more minutes, man.
It’s just amazing.”

1. Maris Strombergs (LAT) 37.576
2. Sam Willoughby (AUS) 37.929
3. Carlos Oquendo (COL) 38.251
4. Raymon Biezen van der (NED) 38.492
5. Twan Van Gendt (NED) 44.744
6. Andres Eduardo Jimenez Caicedo (COL) 53.377
7. Connor Fields (USA) 1:03.033
8. Liam Phillips (GBR) 2:11.918