BMX is unashamedly modern, unapologetically not of the Olympic tradition.
As the sporting community looks to the marathon as one of the dignified final words on the magnificent story of London 2012, there was yesterday the irreverent, noisy and calamitous interruption of the BMX cycling.
Pheidippides died after racing from Marathon, but if he had used his BMX bike (and it remains one of the great mysteries of history why he did not) then he would not have emerged unscathed. He would have at least sustained a skint knee and elbow.
The BMX track, lying in the shadow of the velodrome, the scene of great deeds over the fortnight, yesterday resembled a battlefield at moments. The sun beat down on a hard track and on prone bodies who had spilled from bikes.
Riders were carried away by medical staff, others were helped by Games Makers as they staggered across the course. Others simply climbed back on the bikes like hyperactive urchins and raced to the line.
It was like watching a form of biking Scalectrix as the figures, impossibly tiny when viewed from the banked stands, flashed up and over bumps, slid round corners and span and came off or just careered across the line.
There were eight races in the men's and women's events yesterday and all sped by in just under 40 seconds of extraordinary action. BMX racing starts with eight riders behind a gate staring down a ramp that is impossibly steep. The momentum generated by this plunge is maintained by the cyclists alternating between flying – after coming to crests – or pedalling with a fury when they touch down. It does not have to end with eight riders, however.
It attracts the sort of athlete who revels in high risk and high pain thresholds. Liam Phillips, the 23-year-old from Taunton, is an almost stereotypical rider in his bursting energy on and off the track and his undimmed enthusiasm. He was at the BMX track yesterday after recovering from a broken collarbone earlier in the year. Inevitably, he crashed in the final after building up British hopes with a series of excellent results in the three races that constitute the semi-finals. Inevitably, too, he was quite chipper about flying off his bike.
"I can't sit here and be too disappointed," he said, squatting on a bike so small he could have nicked it from a 10-year-old.
"I maintain that any one of the eight guys on that gate could have gone on to win. I am really pleased with the way I rode. I went out there to win but I got beat to the first turn and got caught up in a bit of carnage."
BMX racing, dear reader, is a sport that has several varieties of carnage and Phillips was blessed that his encounter with this ubiquitous beast was restricted to a tumble and an immediate recovery.
He was cheerful in the face of disappointment. "I will not lose too much sleep because I am really, really pleased with the way I rode. I thoroughly enjoyed it, I loved every moment of it in front of 6000 people all cheering for you.
"This is a sport I have been a part of since I was five years old. It is mind-blowing, really," he added.
Phillips, of course, did not walk away after his crash but picked up his bike like a schoolboy who has had a spill in the park and crossed the line about a minute and a half after the winner, Maris Stromberg of Latvia. This time difference is an age, of course, as the gold medallist had raced home in 37.576 seconds, but Phillips was undaunted. "The crowd was phenomenal and there was no way I was not going to finish that race. It may be a cliche, but I am not a bad sport. You crash, you get back up and finish the lap," he said.
The Brit in the women's event did better, but only because Shanaze Reade, the 23-year-old from Crewe, stayed on her bike. Her sixth-place finish, though, was below her expectations. She blamed the unrelenting schedule of heats for finishing down the field in the final after hinting at a medal in the preliminaries. "It has been hard with the short recoveries," she said. "I just tried to stay focused and do the best I could and today it just wasn't good enough."
The winner was the Colombian, Mariana Pajon, who followed up her first place in all three semi-final heats by breezing to the gold medal.
Her triumph was greeted enthusiastically by a surprisingly high number of her compatriots in the stand who were in the same area occupied by David Beckham, the England footballer, who has been at so many events that one gasps at how lucky he has been in the ticket ballot.
Other gasps were reserved for the relentless recklessness and fortitude of the BMX racers and for the indefatigable energy and innovation of the stadium commentators. The BMX arena is perhaps the only place on Earth where the word dude can be said without irony by someone over the age of 20. It is also one of the few places where a commentator wearing a cape can have a conversation with a DJ who answers by means of scratching records.
It is also a spot where a competitor can be described in the official introduction as looking "like a fox with his hair slicked back".
This was both slightly daft and oddly entertaining. The same can be said about BMX racing.
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