It’s fast, dangerous and just the type of sport the International Olympic Committee is looking for to bring in a younger audience.
London is only the second Olympics for BMX cycling and it did not disappoint, showing off enough speed and crashes to keep the crowd of 6,000 on edge. Throw in some hot sunshine and a DJ showing off his disc-spinning, and the event had the trappings of a beach party.
Tory Nyhaug, 20, was Canada’s only entry in this mayhem on wheels, where eight riders fly down a 450-metre bumpy, twisty course at 60 kilometres per hour.
Nyhaug had come to London ranked fifth in the world, but he suffered an injury in May that crushed his spleen so badly it had to be removed.
This was Nyhaug’s first race since and he couldn’t keep up in Thursday’s qualifying – a complicated process that involves a series of races with all 32 riders divided into four heats and earning points in each run.
Nyhaug placed third in his heat during the first round, but crashed in the second and finished well back in his third and fourth runs.
His only consolation was winning the final run of his heat, but it wasn’t enough and his finished one point shy of advancing to Friday’s 16-man semi-finals.
“I won the last lap and I’m really proud of myself,” the New Westminster, B.C., native said. “It just didn’t work out. The racing was crazy and everyone is going fast. I had a lot of fun but it’s pretty disappointing not to make it through.”
Connor Fields of the United States and Raymond van der Biezen of the Netherlands led the qualifying by winning all of their rounds.
This is certainly a contact sport, made evident on the first run of the day when Khalen Young of Australia crashed near the end of the course. He lay on the track for a while, but eventually got up and carried on racing in later rounds.
A few runs later, seven riders crashed in the first turn. Six managed to get back on their bikes and complete the course.
Nyhaug said his crash occurred when he picked a line, only to see the gap filled quickly by another rider, too late for the Canadian to get out of the way.
“It happens. Crashing is part of the sport. It sucks when it happens, but that’s the way it is,” he said.