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Latvia's Strombergs takes BMX gold

World champion Maris Strombergs of Latvia won the men's BMX gold on Friday, sweeping to the front at the start of the winner-take-all final and never losing control in the sport's first-ever Olympic finals.
The French duo of Anne-Caroline Chausson and Laetitia Le Corguille took gold and silver, respectively, in the women's title race.
"It wasn't easy," said Chausson. "All the mistakes I've made in the last few races, in the last few years, I tried to show nothing of them in these games."
"It's really the work of two years to end up here. It's an immense satisfaction to get to here," said Chausson, 30, for whom this was the last competitive BMX race.
But BMX racing was born in the United States four decades ago, so perhaps it was fitting that on the sport's biggest day, American racers collected the biggest medal haul.
Mike Day and Donny Robinson won silver and bronze in the men's final, while Jill Kintner took the bronze in the crash-filled women's final _ giving the U.S. half of the six medals in the first batch of laurels ever awarded in the Olympic BMX program.
"I'm super pumped," Day said. "I felt good all day. Everything kind of was clicking. I had a great start, I was just a little outside of Maris. But silver _ I'm psyched."
The day was filled with crashes, especially in Turn 1, a tight, banked, asphalt bend where mayhem broke out with amazing regularity.
Success on the 10.5-meter (35-foot), severely sloped starting ramp was critical. Without a good start, no racer could find the best lines going into Turn 1 _ where American three-time world champion Kyle Bennett suffered a dislocated shoulder Wednesday.
That turn saw crashes in eight of the 12 semifinal heats, where racers vying for position inevitably got tangled with one another.
"It's like playing pinball out there," said Bennett, who raced Friday with pain and didn't qualify for the final.
In the men's final, it was simply a race to that first turn, and Strombergs was the best. Day and Robinson stood on their pedals and chased with all they had, but the Latvian never slipped.
In the women's race, Kintner benefited the chaos.
Near the back of the eight-woman pack after a poor start in the final, Kintner kept pumping the whole way, hopeful for a break, which World champion Shanaze Reade of Britain provided. Reade, who crashed three times during the Olympics, went down again in the final turn, and Kintner maneuvered around her into third place.
"How is that! Talk about stuff flying all over the track everywhere," Kintner said. "People were going for broke, so I was patient, I waited, I avoided all the problems _ and there it was."
After crossing the finish line, Kintner hopped off her bike, put her hands atop her helmet, hugged some of her competitors, then thrust her fists into the air, all while Reade writhed on the asphalt 50 meters (yards) away, realizing she'd just blown a medal.
Instead, one went to Kintner _ a former world mountaincross champion who came back to BMX only for the pursuit of an Olympic medal, which she wanted in tribute to her father, who died two years ago and was essentially the driving force behind her cycling career. She had "4 Dad" written on her gloves, giving them a kiss before every ride.
"First woman for America, in the first event ever, first medal, it's such a piece of history," Kintner said. "I'm so glad I can represent and be a part of it. Mikey and Donny and me, it's huge for American BMX. Think about it. This'll bring a big boost to our program. It puts us on the map again."

Updated : 2021-10-27 05:48 GMT+08:00