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RIGA - In the men’s final in BMX at the London Olympics on Aug. 10, Latvia’s top cyclist Maris Strombergs took the lead early and never let up, crossing the finish line ahead of the pack for the gold, reports AFP. Strombergs, 25, claimed the maiden Olympic men’s BMX gold when the sport made its debut in Beijing four years ago.
Despite coming up against a handful of younger rivals, who had shown their mettle in the unforgiving quarter-finals and semi-finals, the Latvian stepped up to the plate when it mattered most.
A two-time world champion known as ‘The Machine,’ Strombergs shot off the eight-meter high ramp and quickly built a slight lead on the rest of the eight-man field. Australia’s world champion Sam Willoughby, 20, was hot on his heels but with several jumps and berms to negotiate, neither rider was free of danger.
Willoughby was the only rider likely to threaten Strombergs, but the Latvian held on to cross the line unchallenged.
“It’s amazing. I still can’t believe it. I need a few more minutes, man,” said Strombergs, who showed once again that a fast start can provide both a crucial lead and reduce the chances of danger. “When I came first out of the first turn, I was really confident in myself and my abilities on the track. I know what I am capable of and I know that if I put everything together with a good lap, no one will come past me.”
Strombergs finished the finals race 37.57 seconds, 0.35 seconds ahead of Willoughby. Carlos Oquendo of Colombia won the bronze. The medal is the second at the Games for Latvia.