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The BMX racing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics got underway with Brits Kye Whyte and Bethany Shriever progressing through the quarter-finals on Thursday (July 29).
Reigning Olympic champion from Rio 2016, Connor Fields from the USA, had some tight runs but was able to battle through to Friday’s semi-finals, while Alise Willoughby (USA) won all three of her runs.
The quarter-finals, held at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in the Japanese capital, saw the 24 starters from each men’s and women’s competitions fight for just 16 places in the semis.
Riders had to compete in three races on the long and technical track, with each athlete scored on their finish position - one point for first, two points for second, etc. The 16 riders with the lowest score at the end of the quarter finals progressed through to the next round.
The top performers in the men’s quarters were the French riders Sylvain André and Joris Daudet, who both won all three of their runs to progress to the semi finals.
While on the women’s side Mariana Pajon from Colombia and two-time world champion Alise Willoughby both won three out of their three runs.
Willoughby said: “I love the track here in Tokyo. It’s a physically demanding track and it’s a lot of work. The weather poses a whole other set of issues and challenges. It’s going to be survival of the fittest out here tomorrow.”
For the Brits, 22-year-old Shriever from Leytonstone won two of her three runs and finished third in her final effort of the quarter finals.
She said: “It is very hot, it is very different to what we are used to back in Manchester. But we prepared for it in the best way that we can, we have been doing heat chambers, I have been having hot baths everyday so I feel like I am prepared for it and just enjoying it really.
“I think if you overthink it, it can get to you so I am just taking each race as it comes, enjoying myself, staying relaxed and when I am relaxed I am at my best. I am having a really good time.
“It is very hot, it is very different to what we are used to back in Manchester. But we prepared for it in the best way that we can, we have been doing heat chambers, I have been having hot baths everyday so I feel like I am prepared for it and just enjoying it really.”
Kye Whyte, 21, from Peckham in south London, finish third, second and fourth in his three runs, making it through to the semis.
He said: “It was challenging, it was hot. The track is longer so it is more tiring but it has been a good day. I would have liked to have done better but it is good to get the nerves out of the way.
“Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.”
“I know if I am in a bad position I can catch up. I know if I get a bad start, I can get into the top-three and I know if I get a good start, I can win. All three races were different and had all of those scenarios.
“Hopefully I can pull out a good start and make the final.”
The semi-finals and finals take place on Friday.
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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