Willoughby rallies for BMX silver

By Roger Vaughan, NZ Newswire Updated August 11, 2012, 6:26 am

A change of attitude worked a treat as world champion Sam Willoughby rallied superbly to snatch the silver medal in Olympic men's BMX cycling on Friday.

Willoughby, who turns 21 next week, had to start the final from gate five on the grid but got away superbly and charged on to beat all but Latvia's Maris Strombergs, who successfully defended his Olympic crown.

Colombian Carlos Oquendo took the bronze.

Willoughby breezed through the semi-finals after needing all five quarter-final runs on Thursday to progress.

"Yesterday was a bit overwhelming for me, for the first time the whole Olympic hype got to me and I felt it," said Willoughby after claiming Australia's first medal in Olympic cycling's newest discipline.

"I made a lot of mistakes, it was a frustrating day.

"I knew physically I was really good, but mentally it all got to me.

"Today, I tried to have a bit of fun and definitely I rode a lot better.

"To come out with a silver medal is a huge honour."

It was a mixed day for Australia, with Caroline Buchanan dominating the women's competition until the final.

She had a bad start and finished fifth behind Colombian winner Mariana Pajon.

New Zealander Sarah Walker won silver and Dutch rider Laura Smulders took the bronze medal.

After two poor semi-final runs, Australian Lauren Reynolds went for broke in the third and crashed out.

Khalen Young, 28, announced his retirement from international competition after he hurt his back in his first semi-final run.

He managed to race the second run, but pulled out of the third.

Brian Kirkham did not progress pass the quarter-finals.

Willoughby's silver means Australian cycling will almost certainly end these Olympics on one gold, two silver and three bronze.

The Australian mountain bikers are not expected to be in medal contention for the weekend's races at Hadleigh Farm, Essex.

It is a vast improvement on the solitary silver medal they won in Beijing and joins Sydney as the sport's second most successful Olympics.

But they would have expected more success, particularly on the track, where Great Britain dominated with seven golds from 10 events.

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