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Nevada’s own Connor Fields took home gold in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The 23-year-old BMX rider from Henderson secured his place in history on Aug. 19 when he took the lead on the course’s second turn and became the first U.S. gold medalist in BMX racing.
“This is the third time that BMX has been in the Olympics, and the same guy won the first two,” Fields said, “so it was really cool to bring the medal home to where I feel like it belongs — and that’s here in the U.S.”
Fields came out of the BMX course’s first turn in second place, and had to make the decision to risk it all to go for gold, or hang back and accept silver.
“At that moment in time, instinctively I reacted,” he said. “I wanted to win, so I made the attempt at the pass and I pulled it off.”
In 2012, Fields won five of six heats in the London Olympics, but failed to medal. In Rio he changed his strategy: Instead of going all-out in the heats, he focused on safely qualifying and reserving his energy for the final.
In London, Fields says he focused on winning, but in Rio he focused on the process: his breath, the start, the drive, the acceleration phase.
“The thought of a medal wasn’t even in my head,” he said. “Any time you think about the result, you’re getting ahead of yourself.”
Earlier this year, Fields broke his wrist. He made the U.S. Olympics team based on past four years of performance, but in that time, he missed the final two World Cups, the Continental Championships and the World Championships leading into the Olympics.
While having to sit out was disappointing, it was also energizing, he said.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Fields said. “It got me hungry again; it gave me that fire.”
Rio was lonely at times because of the competitive nature of BMX, where even teammates compete against each other, and most of the athletes are far away from family and friends. But there was a definite highlight.
In Rio, after his win, Fields went the to the United States safe house and checked his bag. He looked down at his claim ticket and stopped in his tracks: it was No. 88, the racing number belonging to BMX Olympian Kyle Bennett, Fields' former teammate who died in a car accident in 2012.
“It was almost, from beyond, his way of saying to me and coach, ‘Good job guys you finished the job,’” Fields said.
Fields has been racing since he was 7, and today he gives back by coaching young riders. He’s a Green Valley graduate and a UNLV student who wants to earn an MBA and become an agent for other athletes.
As for what’s next, Fields says he’s going to take some time off, and keep training. Next year is the World Championships, and he plans to try his luck in the next Olympics.
“For now it’s just one race at a time,” he said.
Connor Fields, Olympic Gold Medalist