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BMX stages perfect debut at Beijing Olympics
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The Laoshan BMX field on Friday witnessed a fabulous debut of the sport at the Olympics Games with roller-coaster processes and dramatic results, despite a one-day postponement due to heavy rain on Thursday.

Anne-Caroline Chausson of France, who used to be a mountain biker, claimed the first-ever women's bicycle moto cross (BMX) Olympic gold with the fastest time of 35.976 seconds in the event's final at the Beijing Games.

After crossing the finish line, Chausson jumped off her bike in a rush and yelled.

"I wanted to dedicate this medal to my dad. He passed away last year. I'm sad he could not be here today, but this medal is for him," said the French cyclist, the most senior female rider at the tournament.

"I am happy to win the first gold of this sport, because I came from a mountain biker. Now I am an Olympic champion," added the 31-year-old, who has already considered retirement after these Games.

Her compatriot Laetitia Le Corguille took the silver at 38.042 seconds, while the bronze medal went to Jill Kintner of the United States at 38.674.

Defending world champion, also the Games' favorite Shanaze Reade of Britain, who had a heavy crash in the first run in the semifinal, suffered the same misfortune in the final and did not finish the race.

"I put everything into this and I couldn't have done any more," said the disappointed British.

Chinese Ma Liyun, the host's solo contender who competed in her first Olympics with a wild card, only finished 7th in the first heat of the semifinals.

In the men's BMX final, Maris Strombergs, reigning world champion from Latvia, clinched the gold, dashing the hope of the United States to pocket all medals in the event.

Strombergs took the lead in the final from the very beginning, and finished the run at 36.190 seconds, leaving Mike Day and Donny Robinson of the United States far behind at 36.606 and 36.972 respectively.

He was the fastest in the three runs that made up the semifinals to secure the preferred inside gate start position, and notched Latvia's second gold medal at the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Latvian cyclist won the title of the 2008 BMX world championships held in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province, in last May. He is leading a new generation of European riders to challenge the established U.S. squad.

"It doesn't matter if it is the Olympics, the world championships or the European championships, the feeling is the same. I see no difference between my competitors, whether they come from the United States or New Zealand," said Strombergs, adding that he had kept cool and concentrated for the whole race.

The 21-year-old has been riding BMX for 16 years, and is regarded as a veteran of the sport despite his age.

"I'm still young. I have plans for the future, and I have a lot more to accomplish," he said. "This Olympic gold is only one step in my career."

Commenting on the BMX's entry to the Olympic Games as an extreme sport, bronze medalist Robinson, who tops the International Cycling Union's BMX ranking for men's individuals, said it was exactly what needed to happen.

"It can bring more kids and viewers of the Olympics to the sport," said the 1.65-meter-tall cyclist of compact build. "The sport is pretty awesome, and we could work as role models for kids."

The International Olympic Committee decided on June 29, 2003 to introduce BMX at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The sport, which rooted in the late 1960s in southern California, has brought a wild flair packed with youthful energy and colorful characters to the Games.

(Xinhua News Agency August 22, 2008)

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