Getty Images

Ice and dirt: Connor Fields leaves one championship to pursue another

Leave a comment

Connor Fields‘ heart is in Las Vegas. His BMX bike and last remaining goal in the sport are in Azerbaijan.

Fields, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic champion in an event that debuted in 2008, can continue a recent run of American dominance in BMX at the world championships in Baku on Saturday (Olympic Channel, 6 p.m. ET).

“I’ve won every single title possible except for one,” he said. Nationals, Pan American Games, World Cup season title and Olympic gold. But not yet a world title in the elite race that’s on the Olympic program.

“I’d like to take that off and complete the full set,” Fields said.

The timing is a little unfortunate for the 25-year-old who was born in Plano, Texas but has lived in the Las Vegas area since age 4. Fields is so associated with the city that when the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights opened their team store last June, he was the featured athlete in promotions.

“They didn’t have any players yet,” Fields admitted. The expansion draft was a day after the store’s grand opening, which Fields was invited to attend with coach Gerard Gallant.

Last week, Fields made a last-minute (and surely costly) decision to attend Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Golden Knights and Washington Capitals, before flying to Europe ahead of worlds. The Knights won the opener but lost the next three games.

Speaking from France, Fields said he planned to be home in Nevada for Games 6 and 7. It might be moot. The Capitals can lift the Cup with a Game 5 win in Vegas on Thursday (NBC, 8 p.m. ET).

Fields brought Golden Knights gear to France — even to the Palace of Versailles — but his priority is clear.

“World title, easy, not even a question,” Fields said. “I don’t get to take home a trophy or anything if the Golden Knights win.”

Fields would appear an underdog given World Cup results this year — 14th, 15th and 34th — but he won the last World Cup race of 2017 to place second in last season’s overall standings.

He isn’t the only American in medal contention. Rio silver medalist Alise Willoughby and Corben Sharrah swept the 2017 World titles in Rock Hill, S.C., ending an eight-year drought for the U.S. for either gender.

Fields and Willoughby are the only active U.S. cyclists in any discipline (BMX, mountain, road, track) with an individual Olympic medal. Willoughby and Sharrah are two of three active U.S. cyclists in any discipline with an individual world title in an Olympic event (43-year-old Amber Neben, women’s road time trial, 2008 and 2016).

Before BMX made its Olympic debut, a 14-year-old Fields wrote in Sharpie on his parents’ garage wall, “One day I will be national and world champion.”

Then, maybe in two years, an Olympic champion twice.

“I’ve got four years more of experience, four years more to draw from, both good and bad, and mistakes that have been made that I can try not to make it again,” said Fields, who was so overwhelmed at his first Olympics in 2012 that he couldn’t manage a bite of his oatmeal on race day, crashed in the final and finished seventh. “I feel less pressure going in. I’m Olympic champion. I always will be Olympic champion. Nobody can ever take the gold medal away from me. Now I just get the opportunity to get two.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Pollen causes greatest mountain biker in history to retire

Magnus Cort Nielsen wins Tour de France stage ahead of Pyrenees

Leave a comment

CARCASSONNE, France (AP) — Magnus Cort Nielsen of Denmark sprinted away from two other challengers to win Stage 15 of the Tour de France on Sunday.

The Astana rider claimed his first career win at the Tour after staying ahead of Ion Izagirre and Bauke Mollema in a sprint over the final 200 meters of the hilly 181.5-kilometer (112.7-mile) leg from Millau that finished in a long descent to Carcassonne.

The three riders were the last of a breakaway group of 29 cyclists.

Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey, second-placed Chris Froome, and the rest of the overall contenders were in a pack more than 10 minutes behind and had not finished yet.

The race will have a rest day on Monday. That pause precedes the four days in the Pyrenees, followed by the individual time trial on the penultimate day of the race.

The racing returns on Tuesday with Stage 16, a 218-kilometer mountain trek from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

TOUR DE FRANCE: StandingsTV Schedule | Riders to Watch

Matthew Centrowitz grabs first Diamond League win; 3rd fastest women’s mile ever

Leave a comment

Matthew Centrowitz notched the second-biggest international win of his career, grabbing his first Diamond League victory in a 1500m in London on Sunday.

In Rio, Centrowitz became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years. Centrowitz has five U.S. titles and two world championships medals but before Sunday had a best Diamond League 1500m finish of third.

Centrowitz redeemed himself at the London Olympic Stadium, a place where he finished fourth at the 2012 Games, missing a medal by four hundredths of a second.

On Sunday, he surged to win on the inside in the final straightaway, holding off Australian Ryan Gregson by .13. The race lacked the world’s top 1500m runners this year — Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi. Centrowitz was seventh in a stronger field in Monaco on Friday.

Full London results are here. The Diamond League moves to Birmingham, Great Britain, for its next meet Aug. 18.

In other events, Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan clocked the third-fastest women’s mile ever, 4:14.71. Only Svetlana Masterkova‘s 4:12.56 from 1996 and Genzebe Dibaba‘s 4:14.30 from 2016 were faster.

Jamaica may have found a new sprint star in Akeem Bloomfield. The 20-year-old won the 200m in 19.81 seconds, the fastest time by a Jamaican since Bolt’s last 200m at the Rio Olympics, against a field that lacked American Noah Lyles, who has the fastest time of 2018 of 19.65.

Kendra Harrison clocked the world’s fastest 100m hurdles of 2018, 12.36 seconds, on the second anniversary of her world record 12.20 on the same track. Harrison also bettered Olympic champion Brianna McNeal for the third time in four head-to-heads since Rio.

Kenyan Emmanuel Korir won the 800m in 1:42.05, the world’s fastest time since the epic London 2012 final won by countryman David Rudisha at the same Olympic Stadium.

South African Luvo Manyonga won the long jump with an 8.58-meter leap. The Rio silver medalist and world champion beat the last two Olympic gold medalists — American Jeff Henderson (fifth, 8.20 meters) and the retiring Brit Greg Rutherford (10th, 7.55 meters).

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Softball is first event on 2020 Olympic schedule