A high-speed last-corner crash derailed Shanaze Reade's dreams of Olympic success here yesterday.
The 19-year-old from Crewe was the overwhelming favourite to take the first Olympic BMX title. Such was British Cycling's faith in the rider who had won all bar one of her races in the last three years that a replica of the Beijing track was built for her in Manchester, at a cost of £30,000. In the main event, however, the last of three crashes in three days left the triple world champion out of the medals and with multiple injuries, among them a possible broken hand.
The first crash came in the seeding round on Wednesday but Reade battled through to fill the No 2 spot for yesterday's start.
Crash number two came in the first leg of the semi-finals when, at the head of the field, she went into the first corner a shade too fast. Afterwards, limping slightly, Reade said: "Gold medals don't come easy."
Clocking the fastest time in the third round of the semi-finals made for comfortable qualification for the final where Reade was very much in contention.
Then the final disaster struck. Poised to charge past her arch-rival, Anne Caroline Chausson of France, in the final corner, Reade took a sharp inside line, clipped Chausson's back wheel and went flying. Chausson went on to win, leaving Reade to count her injuries and promise revenge in 2012.
"I've got cuts and grazes everywhere," she said, before going to hospital. "I think I've broken my hand, I've cut my shoulder open and there's possible damage to a sciatic nerve. I guess they say you learn the hard way and today I learned the hard way. I put absolutely everything into this, everything from the age of 10. But I'll come back in London, turn it around and show them what I'm made of."
British cycling's performance director, Dave Brailsford, said the bar had been set very high for the 19-year-old, and that 14 medals for British cycling here had pushed it even higher.
"She didn't come here for silver or bronze," he said. "She wanted gold. There was a lot of pressure on her shoulders, and I think in the final you saw experience [triumph] over youth. She's not the first 19-year-old to come to an event of this level and not get the result she wanted. On her day she's the greatest BMXer in the world – today wasn't her day."