Double heartbreak as BMX turns out to be the cruellest sport for Team GB

 

It has the thrills and painful spills – but for Britain BMXing is turning out to be a cruel sport. There was double heartbreak for Team GB last night as both its BMX riders failed to make the podium in the finals of what is a dangerous and compellingly fickle sport.

The Crewe-born rider Shanaze Reade, who famously crashed out of Beijing on the final bend after making a last ditch attempt to snatch gold, will again be pursued by Olympic demons as she limped to sixth place in the final women's race despite storming comfortably through the semis.

Her teammate Liam Phillips suffered a wipe-out: after a promising start flying down the eight-metre-drop ramp he slipped on his peddle, clipped another rider on the second bend, and bounced off the baking Stratford tarmac.

It was an inglorious end for a team who had high hopes of bringing another trophy to the Team GB cabinet. Both fell short at Beijing but over the past four years huge sums of money have been piled into British BMXing in the hopes that Reade and Phillips could bring back gold.

Neither athlete should be judged too harshly: BMX track racing is a frenetic sport that pits eight riders against each other down a 450-metre course filled with nine-foot jumps and steep embankments, and can prove a lottery. A single slip from a rider near the front of the pack can create a multi-bike pile up. The smallest of jump errors sends a rider hurtling over the handlebars. During her career, Reade – whose nan bought her first BMX when she was 10 to keep her out of trouble - has broken a knee, a foot, ribs, an elbow, her coccyx and a hand. Phillips nearly didn’t make it to the London Olympics after a crash earlier this year broke his collarbone.

After just the first four races today, five of the eight riders had been knocked out in a single collision and one Brazilian rider had to be carried away on a spinal board. Both Reade and Phillips managed to avoid the pile-ups and put in a series of fast rides to qualify for the final. But once there Reade was outclassed and Phillips was left sprawled on the track.

BMXing’s pace and carnage have made the sport one of the most popular at London 2012. Much like the beach volleyball at Horseguards parade, it has attracted an enthusiastic, noisy – occasionally drunken – and predominantly young crowd. In between the races a host of DJs and stunt bikers keep the spectators entertained.

Fans love it because BMXing is as much a spectacle as it is a sport. But it can be heartbreaking for the riders who put their bodies on the line.

Reade and Phillips can at least take solace from helping to make BMXing popular once more. Ten years ago there were only five tracks in London and the south east. Now every Olympic borough has a new club. BMXing is something poorer kids from inner city boroughs can do for relatively little expense and the BMX track in Stratford will be reconfigured to become a less challenging track that the public will be able to use.

But Reade, now 23, who grew up on a narrow red-bricked terrace house in Crewe, the daughter of an Irish teenage mother and an absent Jamaican father, was left heartbroken by today's result.

Speaking after the race last night she said she was struggling to come to terms with her loss.

“At the moment I'm pretty emotionless,” she said. “I do not have any emotion in me yet, but I am sure it will sink in. The Games is the biggest platform you can race at and you've just got to give it your best. I just tried to stay focused and do my absolute best, but today it just wasn't good enough.“

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
science
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before