Could Great Britain win gold in BMX racing at the 2016 Rio Olympics?
BMX racing is set to be one of the most exciting events at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics – particularly if you’re cheering on Liam Phillips and Kyle Evans of Team GB.
We’ve been bringing you up to speed with all things Olympic BMX racing in the run up to the event in August, looking at the Olympic BMX rules, when the Olympic BMX is on and where you can watch it, what the Olympic BMX track looks like, and a short history of BMX.
Now it’s time to look at the most important thing about the event – the riders who will be taking part. Who will be representing Team GB in the Olympic BMX and what do you need to know about them? Who will be their main rivals? Let’s have a look at the main characters involved.
Team GB BMX Racing Athletes: Liam Phillips
Discipline: Men’s BMX Racing
Why is he worth watching? He reached the finals of the London 2012 Olympics despite surgery on his collarbone just 10 weeks earlier but unfortunately crashed out after unclipping from his bike. Since then he’s won the World Championships in 2013, and gone on to become the first ever man to win the UCI Supercross World Cup overall title two years running – in 2014 and 2015.
Liam has won World Cup races already this year and will be in high confidence coming into the Olympics this summer. To read his full profile check out our feature interview with Liam Phillips here, or click here to find out more about Liam Phillips’ Olympic record.
Team GB BMX Racing Athletes: Kyle Evans
Discipline: Men’s BMX Racing
Why is he worth watching? Kyle Evans may only be 22 years old but he’s got a lot of potential. Though it was Liam Phillips who claimed the home win in Manchester earlier this year on the UCI Supercross World Cup series, Kyle was close by in second place, just 0.376th of a second behind. If he could replicate that result in Rio, he’d have a silver medal.
Kyle was Olympic reserve for London 2012 aged 19, and has been racing BMX for seven years. He’s been part of the Great Britain Cycling program since he was 14 and had a breakout year in 2014.
Team GB BMX Racing Controversy: Tre Whyte
Tre Whyte is 22-years-old, one hell of a BMX racer, and many feel like he’s been severely mistreated by British Cycling.
In 2014, aged 20 years old, Tre claimed the bronze medal for Great Britain at the UCI BMX World Championships. The funny thing is, he wasn’t even selected by British Cycling to attend the event, so he had to self-fund his effort – and he still finished third.
Tre has also not been selected for the 2016 World Championships in Colombia, despite being the current British National Champion, and due to a change in rules since 2014, he has been unable to self-fund his attendance this time around.
“Why is he on the British Cycling BMX Elite program if you will not select him to race in the Elite meets?”
This means that Tre cannot participate at the Olympic Games at Rio 2016, and many people aren’t happy about it – a petition to take Tre Whyte to the Worlds has 2,991 signatures.
See, British Cycling actually had six open slots for the World Championships, and have only filled three of them – with Liam Phillips, Kyle Evans and Junior Women’s competitor Bethany Shriever. The funding and space was there for Tre to go along, so we, and many others, aren’t exactly sure why he wasn’t selected.
Tre’s mentor and coach Michael Pusey MBE from Peckham Challengers BMX club said: “Considering Tre Whyte wasn’t selected for the World Championships where he won a bronze medal, and he has not been selected for this year’s World Championship, and potentially the Olympics despite qualifying for the World’s, his high ranking and his contribution of a significant amount of points to British Cycling BMX’s overall points tally, it would not be unreasonable for one to conclude there is a pattern in the way British Cycling (BMX) treats Tre Whyte.
“It is grossly unfair that a current World Championship medal winner and member of your Elite program has not been given the opportunity to represent his country despite places and funding being available to do so. “hy is he on the British Cycling BMX Elite program if you will not select him to race in the Elite meets?”
Other Potential BMX Racing Men’s Medallists at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games
Netherlands: Niek Kimmann
Dutch rider Niek Kimman is currently ranked number one in the world – the only man on the planet ahead of Liam Phillips in the UCI world rankings. And he’s only 20 YEARS OLD. Sigh.
Kimman won the 2015 BMX World Champs, but his 2016 form hasn’t been as strong. He finished 16th at the World Cup in Papendal,
United States: Connor Fields
World number three Connor Fields, has the experience of having an Olympics already under his belt and has shown he’s on form this year with a second place at Santiago del Estero in Argentina, where he lost out only to his fellow American Corben Sharrah. The 24 year old is only improving each year.
Latvia: Maris Strombergs
Latvia’s Maris Strombergs may have seen himself drop to 13th in the world, but the 29 year old showed he’s still got it with a World Cup win in Papendal in May 2016 – the last World Cup event before the World Champs and Olympics.
Maris has the experience on the big stage. He won the gold at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, which means he’s literally won every men’s Olympic BMX racing gold medal ever competed for. We wouldn’t put it past him to grab a third this August.
Potential BMX Racing Women’s Medallists at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games
Colombia: Mariana Pajon
World number two Mariana Pajon is known as the “queen of BMX” for good reason. She won the Olympic gold at London 2012, the World Champs in 2014 and is still only 24.
Australia: Caroline Buchanan
The world number one Caroline Buchanan is the woman to beat on the BMX this year. The Aussie won the first two World Cup events this year in Argentina and England and came second at Papendal in the Netherlands. She’s the definite favourite coming in this year.
Netherlands: Laura Smulders
2012 London bronze medallist Laura Smulders will be eager to make that medal an even more desirable one in Rio. After winning the World Cup in Papendal, she’s shown she can beat Buchanan and take the gold.
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