BMX made its debut in the Tokyo Games on Thursday, with the men's and women's quarter-finals.
Unlike the three editions in which the discipline has participated before (Beijing, London and Rio), few falls marked this first day.
Everything but a coincidence.
After a highly criticized edition in Brazil, the IOC and the UCI have agreed to change the layout of the tracks and minimize the risk of carnage.
From our special correspondent in Tokyo,
From our special correspondent in Tokyo,
BMX, its full blast starts, its strikes in the first corner, its violent falls when landing bumps, its… STOP. We stop right away. You may not have noticed it, but BMX has changed. Too much carnage, too much serious injury and shattered careers. Appeared on the Olympic program in Beijing in 2008, the discipline found its limits in Rio. While of course it intends to keep the spectacular side that makes its charm and reputation, it has undertaken a little grooming in recent years, at least for the showcase that constitutes the Games.
If you took a look at the qualifiers on Thursday, you will surely have noticed that it is much less fallen than usual.
A fluidity that has benefited the French, unhappy four years ago.
Joris Daudet, Sylvain André and Romain Mahieu validated their ticket for the semi-finals without batting an eyelid this Friday (3 hours, the final at 4:40).
On the ladies' side, Axelle Etienne will also be there, but not Manon Valentino.
No pileup involved for the Rio finalist, she was simply not in the game.
🇫🇷 We will therefore have three French in the semi-finals of the Olympics.
Joris Daudet wins his event once again and joins Romain Mahieu and Sylvain André.
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This moderation - relative - was essential for the development of BMX. We rewind. During the test event before Rio, in 2015, the riders dare, for once, to express their dissatisfaction. It is no longer a track but a slaughterhouse. "We should not have to run on tracks like that", thunders including the Briton Liam Phillips, double winner of the World Cup. Its designer, the American Tom Ritzenthaler (who had also designed the tracks in Beijing and London), takes the fly.
“I draw tracks with a lot of jumps, which some people don't like, maybe because they don't know how to negotiate them well,” he reacts, annoyed.
I wanted to take this sport to new heights, with bigger jumps and faster tracks.
The big boss of
, if he did a lot for the discipline in his beginnings, has just missed the decisive turn.
Athletes want to see their sport evolve, but not in the sense of an increasingly dangerous game with limits.
A Frenchman on the track
The Olympic track is finally planed, but that does not prevent the big nonsense. The four Frenchmen engaged pass by the trap on fall, and they are not the only ones. Liam Phillips, visionary, ends up in hospital. "With ever more accident-prone tracks, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and losing our credibility", loose after the competition Vincent Jacquet, the national technical director of French cycling. He is not the only leader to make this observation.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) takes the problem head-on and when it comes to choosing who will take care of the route for Tokyo, a special commission is set up.
Each contender must come and present his vision of BMX and the path he should take.
Finally, it is a French who wins the tender: Thomas Hamon, former member of the France team from 2003 to 2012 and founder of the company Protracks after his retirement from sports.
His past has allowed him to clearly understand the issues.
The UCI and the Tokyo organizing committee trust it, and submit it to precise specifications.
Hamon gives us the three main points:
Reduce speed: “They didn't want any difference in height on the track, between the bottom of the starting ramp and the finish.
In Rio, there were about ten meters, the whole track was downhill, obviously this generates a greater speed.
In London and Beijing, it was the same.
Decrease the probability of falls: “It's impossible to say that there won't be a fall, it's a sport with an element of randomness.
On the other hand, we put all the chances on our side so that there are less.
So with slightly longer straights, and bumps designed so that we can pass them with the whole technical panel, not just jumping.
Before, on the tracks of major competitions, they were only compulsory jumps.
There, the track offers different ways to relaunch.
A better consideration of women: “In Beijing, London and Rio, it was almost two tracks integrated into one with all the lines that were divided. This is not the case, 75% of the track is identical, and even the remaining 25%, there is not much difference. Tokyo and the UCI insisted a lot. So the bumps are going to be a little easier for the boys and a little harder for the girls. "
The general idea, in summary: "Avoid carnage, make things fluid, available to the general public", says the Calaisien, world champion in 2008. What do the main stakeholders think? That good, a priori. “The trail is less impressive and a bit longer, less likely to cause falls. It's not bad, ”said Sylvain André before embarking on the competition. "It is not very complicated, but it is demanding," added Joris Daudet. We will be able to double ourselves, to try things. This is a really great track for an event like this. "
The first day on the Ariake track was in line with expectations.
Without removing all the risks, which is impossible anyway, the runs look a little less like a giant lottery.
Rewarding more riding was also an ambition that BMX would run after.
"Me, my goal is that whoever crosses the line first is the best, from all points of view: technique, power, endurance", reminds Thomas Hamon.
Our file on the Tokyo Games
On Friday, a big name in the discipline will not be missing in the starting gate.
On the men's side, the American Connor Fields, reigning Olympic champion, the Dutch Niek Kimman and Twan van Gendt and the Swiss David Graf will battle with the French.
On the women's side, the boss Mariana Pajon will be aiming for a third title in a row after having flown over the warm-up laps.
That too is part of the show.
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