Willoughby & Dean sizzle into semis

Published 19 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 18: Connor Fields of the United States, Anthony Dean of Australia, Corben Sharrah of the United States, Bodi Turner of Australia competes in the Cycling BMX - Men's Quarterfinals on Day 13 of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games at Olympic BMX Centre on August 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

CYCLING – BMX: Australia’s Sam Willoughby and Anthony Dean have soared into the BMX semi-finals with a nearly flawless run by the duo in Thursday’s quarter-finals.

London 2012 silver medallist Willoughby simply sizzled during his three runs as he bolted from the gates to run away with three commanding victories, while debutant Dean launched himself into medal favouritism after grabbing two wins and one second place.

On a day of thrills and spills at the Olympic BMX Centre, four eight-rider heats made the frantic 35 second dash to the finish line three times.

And with high stakes on the line - a spot in Friday’s semi-final – there was plenty of carnage as riders were flung high and wide as they battled not just the jumps and berms, but also strong winds across the 400m course.

With Metallica blaring in his ears, Willoughby opened with a superb ride which saw him bolt to the lead with a great jump at the gate. And with riders falling behind him, he stayed well out of trouble to secure the win.

It was never in doubt for the South Australian in the second run as he was able to ease up on his pedals in the final straight and roll across the line. The third was tighter, with Twan van Gent (NED) pushing Willoughby all the way and Willoughby taking the win by a tire width.

“If I came here and went out in the first round, it would be more than disappointing,” Willoughby said. “But it is not even close to job done, it is what you expect of yourself, that’s why we are here, to win laps and do your best.

“I ticked off clean laps and that’s what today was about.

“I came here to win laps. And that is three out of seven done. A step in the right direction.

“But I am going to have to go quicker than that to get the job done tomorrow, so we will go back, rest up and be ready to go tomorrow.”

The blustery conditions across the track created havoc for the riders, with the importance of getting in front early never higher in order to avoid being caught up in the chaos.

“It was carnage out there today, the wind makes it a lot sketchier, but we train in these conditions a lot. It is part of the game,” Willoughby said.

“Tomorrow, it is also about riding to the conditions, we show up and it is like this tomorrow, we will have to reassess.

“Providing there are better conditions, I can go a lot quicker.”

Dean and Bodi Turner featured together in heat four, with Dean powering to second behind Connor Fields (USA) in their first run, before a commanding display which saw him take the win in run two. With confidence building, Dean powered to Friday’s semi-finals with a solid win in run number three. 

Unfortunately, Turner’s debut Olympic campaign came to an end after finishing sixth in run one, eighth in the second, but a strong fourth wasn’t enough to get him through to Friday’s semi-finals.

The men’s and women’s semi-finals, and finals, will be held on Friday from 1.30pm (AEST 2.30am Saturday 20 August).

The great performances by Willoughby and Dean have seen them seeded into opposite semi finals.

In the women’s, Caroline Buchanan and Lauren Reynolds will battle it out in semi-final two, with the top four of eight riders after three semi-final runs progressing to the final.

Amy McCann

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