Heartbreak for Team USA in Tokyo
Felicia Stancil Battles to Fourth in BMX Racing Olympic Finals
Willoughby, Fields, and Sharrah also competed in the semifinals.
TOKYO – The morning started off wet at the Ariake Urban Sports Park for the second day of BMX Racing. With a 45-minute weather delay for the semifinals, the track crew did their best to dry off all the water and attempt to dry the track after torrential downpours during the morning.
The semifinals are run in a similar format to the quarterfinals. Each of the heats races three rounds and the top four riders with the lowest points in each heat will transfer to the final. Four Americans, Alise Willoughby (Saint Cloud, Minn.; Team Toyota/ GW Bicycles), Felicia Stancil (Lake Villa, Ill.; Factory Answer SSquared), Connor Fields (Henderson, Nev.; Chase Bicycles/ Monster Energy), and Corben Sharrah (Tucson, Ariz.; Daylight Cycle Co.) took to the track today to represent Team USA, after advancing past the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Flyin’ Felicia Stancil held true to her nickname and flew through the semifinals heading into the main event with the lowest points from her heat. In the final, Stancil had a solid start out of the gate and was able to work her way into a fourth-place finish.
Stancil reflected on her Olympic journey. “It’s a little bit of mixed emotions. I'm very proud to represent my country. It is a huge honor. I definitely wanted to grab a medal for our country. But this is my first Olympics and I guess it’s just going to add fuel to the fire for more. The Olympic gold medal for Women [BMX Racing] is the only one we don't have. So hopefully one day we can get that.”
It was a tough ride for Willoughby in the semifinals. After a crash in the first run, she was able to ride to third in the next round, then had her eyes set on the win so she knew she would advance to the finals. Determined for the first spot, Willoughby passed Saya Sakakibara (AUS) and the riders collided, keeping them both out of the main event.
Willoughby explained the crash in more detail. “I’m just very disappointed because I know where I was really at, and today just wasn't my day to execute that… I was coming by and we clipped bars a little bit going up the lip, and that's never good. I was in a hard spot from the word go, having that crash in the first round, and I needed low points, so you have to push the envelope a little harder than you want to. It's unfortunate. Saya was riding well, also.”
Fields was flying today. Over his three runs, he went third, first, and then, unfortunately, crashed in turn one of his final run. His points still qualified him to move on, but he was unable to start the final where he was placed eighth.
Dr. Jon Finnoff, Chief Medical Officer for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee commented on Fields' condition. “We can confirm that Connor Fields is awake, stable, and awaiting further medical evaluation. He will remain in the hospital under observation.” Additional updates about his condition will be shared as they become available.
Stancil saw the crash as she was in staging for her third round. “I was with one Team USA staff member crying. He's my training partner, so I hope he's okay. I'm thinking about him a lot right now. I'm still a bit emotional. I look up to [Connor] a lot and just his mentality. He's helped me with that, to get the right mentality, the winner’s mentality. He's an Olympic champion forever. To be around him, and his support, all the time is amazing. His crash definitely affected me. I actually won the next lap after I cried. I was crying going up the start hill and then won the run. He's just an inspiration. It's hard to see your training partner that you've spent a lot of time with go down.”
Two-time Olympian Sharrah looked strong all through the quarterfinals but would come up short in the semifinals, keeping him from advancing to the final.
Sharrah said, “I could have been better, could have been worse. Definitely wasn't what I wanted, and we came in prepared. I mean, just like everyone else, all 48 athletes, women and men, everybody is ready to medal, ready to win. That's how I felt and ended yesterday, pretty good. Came in today feeling pretty good, but I just didn't have the starts I needed or wanted. It meant I was stuck racing in the traffic with everybody and things just didn't go my way. That's BMX racing. When you're at this level and everybody's so good, anything can happen to anybody at any point. I did my best, that's all I can ever do down there on the BMX track.”
Reigning World Champion Hannah Roberts (Buchanan, Mich.), 2018 World Champion Perris Benegas (Reno, Nev.), 2019 World Champion Justin Dowell (Virginia Beach, Va.), and 2019 Worlds Bronze Medalist Nick Bruce (Youngstown, Ohio) take to the park in the Olympics first-ever BMX Freestyle event. Seeding kicks off at 10:00 a.m. JST / 9:00 p.m. EDT with the Women and then will move to the Men at 11:20 a.m. JST / 10:20 p.m. EDT. The competition will conclude on Sunday. You can watch the event live here.