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Connor Fields does in Rio what he couldn’t in London -- win BMX gold

Connor Fields of the United States races during the men's BMX final on Aug. 19 in Rio de Janeiro.
(Phil Walter / Getty Images)

In April, Connor Fields posted a photo of himself on Twitter. He is lying on his back in a hospital, his shattered left wrist laying gingerly across his chest, his right hand covering his face.

Four months later, on a warm afternoon in Rio, he had his right hand on his heart.

The BMX cyclist based out of the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista did Friday what he couldn’t four years ago, converting all that talent and drive into a gold medal on Rio’s green track to punctuate a redemptive day for the U.S. team after being skunked in 2012.

Alise Post was the silver medalist in the women’s race behind Colombia’s Mariana Pajon, who also won in London and became her country’s first double gold medalist in any sport to the absolute delirium of the wildly partisan Colombian crowd at Centro Olimpico de BMX.

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Fields knows the feeling of coming home empty. He won five of his six preliminary heats as a 19-year-old in London to claim the No. 1 seed in the final, then bombed in it and finished seventh.

And he admits it now: “I got ahead of myself a little bit. I was riding so well and feeling so good, and I started to think about that podium before I had done it. I was younger and I hadn’t really been in that position before.”

He rode more conservatively in the three semifinal heats this time, finishing second, second and sixth, and got what supposedly was a disadvantageous outside lane for the one-race final.

The difference?

As he was pushing his bike up the hill to the start gate, Sean Dwight, his Australian coach, leaned into his ear and said: “Remember that feeling you had in London? Here’s your chance. Go take it.”

Said Fields: “That kind of a lit a fire under me.”

Said Dwight: “There might have been a few swear words in there that you can’t print.”

Dwight was Fields’ coach in 2012, too, but they had what Fields calls “a little bit of a falling out” afterward and Dwight left to coach Australian Sam Willoughby, who won a silver medal in 2012 and lives in the BMX hotbed of Chula Vista with Post, his fiancée. Fields and Dwight later reunited in time for Rio.

mark.zeigler@sduniontribune.com


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