Barely an hour after Laura Smulders' golden dream had shattered, Merel Smulders more than made up for the day for her family.

The 23-year-old BMX star won a surprising bronze at the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Friday, equaling her sister's performance in 2012.

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During the final in which she wanted to take gold, Laura Smulders stands at a fence just after the finish of the BMX track at the Ariake Urban Sports Park.

Forgotten is the pain in her ankle, the fall in the semi-final.

With a loud scream she accompanies Merel Smulders to third place, after which she is the first to congratulate her four years younger sister with bronze.

"I don't think I've ever roared so loudly," says Laura Smulders a few minutes later with a laugh.

"I have no idea if Merel heard me, but I'm very proud of her. She just did it, this definitely makes my day. Ha, we are not only the Smulders sisters, but also the bronze sisters."

Laura Smulders (27) has been one of the best BMX stars in the world for years.

The 2018 world champion was the top favorite for gold in Tokyo, but it went wrong in her first race on Friday.

Merel Smulders did make it to the final with a bit of luck on her Olympic debut and drove her best race of the week.

She finished third behind Britain's Beth Shrever and Colombian Mariana Pajón.

"It can hardly be a coincidence", Merel Smulders laughs.

"Laura won bronze at her first Olympics and now I'm winning bronze at my first Olympics."

"I honestly didn't expect to win a medal today, especially after my first two races went so badly. But in the final everything fell apart. It still feels very unreal, like a big dream. Man, this was an emotional rollercoaster, but one with a happy ending."

Laura Smulders encourages her sister Merel Smulders in the last meters of the BMX final.

Laura Smulders encourages her sister Merel Smulders in the last meters of the BMX final.

Photo: ANP

'It made me angry to see Laura sad'

That roller coaster started when Merel Smulders saw her sister fall in the first heat of the other semi-final.

"Especially after her second ride, when Laura's heart broke because she knew she couldn't make it to the final, I felt a lot of pain. I thought: why do I have a sister who is also a BMX star? Because I shot in the stress, because I also want her to do well. It made me very angry to see Laura so sad."

After that second semi-final, there was a brief moment of contact between the sisters.

"Laura gave me a box and I tried to comfort her," said Merel Smulders.

"Then I thought: I have to turn this anger into something positive. I wanted to go for it, also for Laura. And that just gave me that extra push. Ha, it was positive anger, if that's possible."

With a third place in her third and last semi-final, Merel Smulders reached the final with her heels over the ditch.

"Normally I'm too pumped up, I get nervous and I have to calm myself down. But in the final I was fairly relaxed at the gate and I really enjoyed my round. I'm really happy that I was able to convert the sadness about Laura in a bronze medal."

See also: View the medal table with the Netherlands in the top ten