Chasing gold at the end of the rainbow
Five of the world’s best BMX cyclists have today been named to represent Australia at the London Olympic Games. Heading to London as the top ranked nation in men’s and women’s BMX, the Australian team features world No.1 Sam Willoughby and female No.2 rider Caroline Buchanan.
Willoughby and Buchanan both collected a World Champion’s rainbow jersey last month, and have their eyes on gold at the end of the rainbow in London.
“The thing with success is that it is the most addictive thing ever. The more you get, the more you want!” Willoughby said.
“Since BMX was added to the Olympic program it has 100 per cent been my goal to compete in London. I knew I’d be the right age, I knew I’d be ready, and I’ve had an amazing season so far,” Buchanan said.
Australia secured the maximum number of BMX Olympic quota places - two women and three men. In a tight tussle for the second female position, No.5 ranked Lauren Reynolds edged out teammate and world No.6 Melinda McLeod by just three points.
With No.7 ranked Brian Kirkham also named in the men’s event, four out of our five riders would make the eight-person Olympic final based on rankings. But the thrills and spills of BMX play a huge part, and Khalen Young, ranked 17th, is a tough competitor who will also push for the podium.
At 20, Willoughby is the youngest in the team but also the most credentialed. He won the junior world titles in 2008 and 2009 and enters the Games not only as the top ranked rider in the world but as world champion after his win last month in Birmingham.
“I love racing on a confidence high, that’s when I am at my best. It probably does make me a marked man, but that’s what I aim for, that’s what I thrive on.”
Willoughby spent a week relaxing after his biggest career win but is now focused on the London Games.
“I plan to finish the job off in London, as worlds was just a stepping stone for the Olympics.
“Finally after four years of preparation it’s a huge honour to have the Olympic Team announcement made. However it is just half the battle. If I am going to represent my country on the biggest sporting stage, I want to do it in a professional and winning way.
“My goal is the same as it always is and that is to win. In order to do that, however, it’s going to take a lot of focus from me to execute the same processes I do on a daily basis.”
Canberra’s Buchanan has been a BMX rider since she was five but was too young to be eligible for the Beijing Olympics. Since then her entire focus has been on London 2012. She had a blistering start to the season, claiming three straight World Cup time trial wins and crossing first in the race final in Norway. She also won the non-Olympic time trial event gold medal at the World Championships.
“I feel like I’m riding on a high this season, it’s been amazing. It’s been the most consistent season I’ve ever had and I’ve got the best results in my career.
“Winning the time trial at the World Championships was the first time I ever pulled on a BMX rainbow jersey and it was a real career highlight,” said Buchanan who has twice claimed elite world titles in four-cross mountain bike racing
But the time trial result in Birmingham was bittersweet for Buchanan who failed to qualify through the early rounds for the main event. Only one medal is on offer in London and it comes in head-to-head racing rather than the time trial.
“What I’ve noticed is that you’re only as good as your last race. It was quite hard to finish on a not so good note by missing the finals at Worlds, but that has definitely made me hungrier.
“I’m not content with where I’m at and I can’t wait for London,” said Buchanan.
Look out London, the Aussies are coming.
The BMX section of the 2012 Australian Olympic Team:
Caroline Buchanan 21 21 Canberra, ACT Canberra, ACT
Brian Kirkham 26 26 Port Augusta, SA Adelaide, SA
Lauren Reynolds 21 21 Bunbury, WA Perth, WA
Sam Willoughby 20 20 Adelaide, SA California, USA
Khalen Young 27 27 Perth, WA California, USA
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