Official practice started on Monday for the BMX athletes who have worked hard for four years to be part of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The Supercross track at the Deodoro Olympic Park looks spectacular, with the start ramp and asphalt corners painted green. The grandstands can accommodate 7500 people and atmosphere is promised.
Women’s Olympic Champion and 2016 UCI World Champion, Mariana Pajon (COL) is still on top of her game in every race she enters. However, the women’s field is full of potential and could even produce some surprises.
Among those expected to shine are Alise Post (USA), Laura Smulders (NED) and UCI World Champion in the time trial, Caroline Buchanan (AUS), who has already painted her bike shiny gold.
At age 19, Yaroslava Bondarenko (RUS) is the youngest BMX competitor in Rio, while at 35, Argentinean Gabriela Maria Diaz can be considered a true BMX veteran. Rookies against veterans, UCI World Champions against national BMX heroes, anything can happen at the Olympic Games. The pressure will be huge for every lap.
In the Men’s competition, defending Olympic Champion Maris Strombergs can expect competition to come from many angles. Gold medallist in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the 29-year-old has been selective in choosing his races this year, but is focused on Rio. Great Britain’s Liam Phillips is also aiming for a medal, while Sam Willoughby (AUS) will not be satisfied with anything other than gold.
At just 20 years old, the Netherlands’ Niek Kimmann has more than proved he can battle with the best when it matters, winning the 2015 UCI World Championships in his first year as an Elite rider, and following up with gold in the time trial at this year’s UCI World Championships. Meanwhile reigning UCI BMX World Champion Joris Daudet (FRA) will definitely be looking to confirm his form. Or could it be Nic Long's Games? The American, just like many others, has put his time in and will use the biggest platform to show what he is capable of.
Racing starts on Wednesday with time trials, which are used for seeding the riders in the next rounds of the competition. Preparations have been long and extensive, and now it’s time for action.