Blood flows as NZ BMXers begin campaign
There was blood on the track and sore eardrums in the stands as New Zealand's BMX riders made solid starts to a frantic opening day of the Olympic competition.
The three New Zealand riders, Sarah Walker, Marc Willers and Kurt Pickard all emerged from the opening day time trials unscathed, with Walker the most impressive with the second-fastest time in the 16-woman field.
No one was eliminated today, with the times determining seeding order and gate selection order for the first round of racing.
In its second Olympics, BMX is targeted at a younger generation of potential viewers. And if high-speed spills, over-excited announcers and loud, thumping tunes through an array of speakers are up your alley, then you wouldn't have left disappointed.
Despite the riders going against the clock only, there were two casualties on the specially-constructed track at Olympic Park.
Latvian Edzus Treimanus misjudged the first bump in the home straight, slipped forward on his bike and face planted into the second bump. It looked nasty, and Treimanus walked away with blood streaming from his nose.
In the women's event, Brooke Crain of the United States came to grief at the same spot, crashing painfully to the dirt. She also got to her feet but was assisted off the track.
Walker, considered one of the leading contenders for gold, got a confidence boost as she zipped around the 440m women's track in 38.644sec. Fastest qualifier was Australia's Caroline Buchanan who rode 38.434sec.
Local favourite Shanaze Read, one of Walker's toughest opponents, was fifth-fastest in a time of 39.368.
"I just focused on getting a smooth lap and getting a strong start. Time trials are not really one of my fortes, I'm a better racer than a time triallist," Walker said.
"But I put down a good lap. I'm happy because Shanaze was before me and I beat her by a lot. That's a good start to the week."
Walker stamped her mark on the 16-woman competition but she wasn't bothered about making a statement to her rivals.
"I don't really mind what my opponents think of me. I knew what I wanted to do on that lap and I was almost putting the pressure on as if it was a final and I needed to perform the best lap that I could. I think I did that."
The women now have a rest day before three runs of semifinals then a one-off final on Saturday (NZ time).
Willers was ninth fastest and Pickard 16th fastest in the 32-strong men's field.
A rider with a noted dislike of time trials, medal contender Willers did what was required, riding 38.687 for the 450m men's course. Pickard went around in 39.057 while the fastest qualifier was Dutchman Raymon van der Biezen, who rode 37.779.
Willers was happy to see the back of the time trial ahead of tomorrow's quarterfinals. They're staged over five races, but the leading riders can qualify for the semifinals after three.
"I just want to get out of those first three, just be consistent and keep to myself and not let anyone else get in my way," Willers said.
"It's going well. My gates and my first straight are really strong. That's my strength, I just get out in front and do as much as I can to hold everyone off and it normally works."
But he predicted potential carnage on the fast course after today's crashes.
"There might be, for a few of the mid-packers at the back who are fighting for position. It's quite a long track so the quads start to burn and the last straight is quite lippy and it tends to throw you over the front if you get it wrong so there could be a few spills."