Added only in 2008, BMX cycling is one of the youngest Olympic sports in the 2016 Rio Games. But there will be no shortage of intrigue in this year’s event, as a young phenom will be looking to wrest the gold away from the aging Olympic champion.
Let’s take a closer look at the top names to look out for in the BMX Olympic field, as well as a couple of riders who still have a realistic shot at gold despite their long odds.
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Niek Kimmann (+300)
Kimmann was unable to successfully defend his title this year, but he came pretty close. He finished second in the elite race, and also won gold in the time trial during the world championships. Those results have helped Kimmann keep his place atop the world rankings. Without a doubt, Kimmann will be the man to beat in Rio.
Joris Daudet (+450)
After coming close twice (3rd in 2010 and 2nd in 2012), Joris Daudet finally became BMX world champion this past May in Colombia. But based on his recent form, that result came as quite a surprise. Daudet had dropped to No. 5 in the world rankings after finishing just 6th, 5th and 8th in the first three UCI BMX Supercross World Cup events of the 2016 season.
But Daudet won, and he should be full of confidence heading into Rio. This will be the Frenchman’s second trip to the Olympics. He finished second in the seeding run in 2012, but disappointingly crashed out in the semifinals.
Maris Strombergs (+500)
Only one man has ever won gold in BMX’s short Olympic history: Maris Strombergs. The Latvian finished first in both 2008 and 2012 – the first two Olympics which included BMX. Strombergs, though, will head into this year’s Olympics at age 29, which is pretty old in the sport. He recently finished dead last in the elite race of the world championships.
Nevertheless, “The Machine” should still be one of the top contenders for gold in Rio. The elite race aside, Strombergs having another good season thus far. He is currently ranked No. 7 in the world, and won the World Cup event in Papendal just prior to the world championships.
Nicholas Long (+1,000)
Along with Corben Sharrah (+800) and Connor Fields (+1,500), Nicholas Long will be one of three strong American contenders in the field. But of the three, Lang could have the best value to actually go home with the gold.
Long competed in the 2012 London Olympics. He finished 7th in the seeding run, but unfortunately couldn’t qualify from his quarterfinal heat.
This year, though, Long will enter Rio as the current No. 2-ranked rider in the world, just behind Kimmann. He is also coming off a confidence-boosting 3rd-place finish in the world championships.
David Graf (+5,000)
Looking for a long shot value play in BMX? Then try David Graf on for size. The 27-year old Swiss is currently ranked No. 10 in the world. He had a slow start to the season, finishing just 6th in the World Cup events in Santiago del Estero and Manchester. But he bounced back with a 2nd place finish in Papendal, just behind Strombergs. Graf finished 5th in the elite race of the most recent world championships, but he did finish 3rd just last year.
Kimmann (+300) reaffirms his status as the best BMX rider in the world as he wins gold in Rio.
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