Alise Willoughby earned her second BMX world title in three years, boosting her hopes to improve on her Rio Olympic silver medal in Tokyo next year.
“Coming into this I was down in the dumps at the start of the day, I started my day on the ground,” Willoughby said, referring to a crash in an earlier round Saturday, according to USA Cycling. “You know coming into this I knew it was going to be tough with all the Europeans who have been here every week for the past year and in the rain. None of it was in my favor. I’m really happy I rose to the challenge and I can’t believe here we are.”
Willoughby, a two-time Olympian, beat 2018 World champion Laura Smulders of the Netherlands by .445 of a second in Zolder, Belgium. Two-time Olympic champion Mariana Pajon of Colombia was taken out by another rider’s crash early in the final.
Twan van Gendt and Niek Kimmann made it a Netherlands one-two in the men’s event, where no Americans made the final. Van Gendt got the hole shot, then benefited coming around the penultimate curve in the lead when riders Nos. 2-5 crashed on the rain-soaked course. Full race video is here.
Rio Olympic champion Connor Fields was eliminated in the semifinals. Fields is the lone American to earn an Olympic BMX title since the sport debuted at Beijing 2008.
Willoughby, née Post, married 2012 Olympic silver medalist Sam Willoughby of Australia on Dec. 31, 2017, two years after he suffered a training crash that temporarily left him with no feeling below his chest. He walked her down the aisle with the aid of a walker.
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