BEIJING U.S. riders on Friday captured three of the top six medals in BMX cycling, the new wild child sport of the Summer Games, in a day filled with numerous crashes and high-speed sprints.
Latvian cyclist Maris Strombergs, a current European champion, captured the gold medal in the men's event, and U.S. riders Mike Day, 23, and Donny Robinson, 25, won the silver and bronze medals.
"Everything was just kind of clicking. I had a great start. Silver? I'm psyched," said Day, a former No. 1 in the world who is from Santa Clarita, Calif.
In the women's event, French riders Anne-Caroline Chausson and Laetitia le Corguille took gold and silver and U.S. rider Jill Kintner, a native of Seattle who now lives in Chula Vista, Calif, took the bronze.
Kintner, 26, only returned to BMX last year after spending four years focusing on mountain bike racing, winning most of the major titles in that sport before returning to BMX.
"I'm just so happy," said Kintner, adding that the medals going to U.S. riders will likely give a boost to BMX racing in the United States. "We got three medals out of six. That's pretty damn good."
Nearly every other heat had a crash or tumble, some involving multiple riders.
"Turn No. 1, that's where the carnage is happening!" shouted Michael Redman, the color commentator, as Swiss rider Roger Rinderknecht's wheels came out from under him, leading to a tumble in a semifinal run.
Riders reached speeds of up to 35 miles per hour leading into the sharply banked turn, which usually defined the outcome of each 40 to 45 second heat.
The Laoshan Bicycle Motocross course in western Beijing involves eight riders in each heat in a breakneck winner-take-all race over jumps, through tight turns and into a final sprint.
A blazing sun dried out the mud-and-asphalt course after a daylong rain delay.
BMX began life in the late 1960s as a backyard sport on dirt tracks and sometimes involving trick riding, but has evolved into a sport with professional circuits in North America and Europe. Riders from South Africa, South America and Australia are also highly rated.
Bicycle Motocross, as BMX is formally known, made its debut at these Summer Games, introducing an alternative sport with fast-paced racing, thrilling jumps and a high likelihood of crashes.
Supporters say the BMX racers are every bit as athletic as other Olympians, but truth be told, Olympic organizers added the edgy sport to appeal to younger television viewers. Indeed, scores of television cameras scattered about the track almost seemed to outnumber spectators.