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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Olympic silver medalist Alise Willoughby said her BMX bike was stolen while she dined at an In-N-Out Burger in California last weekend.
“It’s very noticeable,” Willoughby said of the bike in an NBC San Diego interview. “My name is written all over it.”
Willoughby has not returned an email to an account associated with her, seeking an update on the bike. She said she has been undefeated domestically riding the bike this year. Willoughby is a four-time world medalist, with a gold in 2017.
Willoughby said her biggest race of the year is in three weeks, presumably the Grand Nationals in Tulsa.
“And I don’t have a bike right now,” she said.
Willoughby has been known to ride with the words “Cheryl Strong” on her bike’s front hub axle in honor of her mom, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2013 and died in January 2014. It’s not known whether the stolen bike is the same one.
Willoughby, née Post, married 2012 Olympic silver medalist Sam Willoughby of Australia on Dec. 31, 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.
“It’s got a lot of meaningful stuff to me,” Alise Willoughby said of the bike, “between my husband’s accident and my mom’s passing away, just custom little things that mean a lot to me.”
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A pair of Americans, Corben Sharrah and Alise Post, captured gold medals Saturday night at the UCI BMX World Championships, ending a world title drought for both the U.S. men and women.
Sharrah, who entered the day ranked No. 1 in the men’s division, won all of his qualifying motos and all of his elimination heat races en route to the final. The field in the final also included 2016 Olympic champion Connor Fields, but it was France’s Sylvain Andre who ended up giving Sharrah the biggest challenge. Sharrah crossed the line about four-hundredths of a second ahead of Andre to claim his first world title.
Post’s final race was even closer. Like Sharrah, she had won all of her qualifying motos and elimination heats leading up to the final. But in the final, she had to work hard to fend off Australia’s Caroline Buchanan. It was close enough to force a photo finish, with Post officially edging out Buchanan by just eight-thousands of a second. Post has now won four world championship medals, but this was her first gold medal.
Sharrah’s world title is the first for an American man since 2009. Post’s victory ended an even longer drought on the women’s side, one dating back 20 years.
Adding to the moment was the fact that the victories came on home soil for the Americans. This year’s world championships were contested in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
2017 BMX Championships: Men’s Elite
Gold: Corben Sharrah (USA) — 32.913
Silver: Sylvain Andre (FRA) — 32.951
Bronze Joris Daudet (FRA) — 33.891
7. Connor Fields (USA) — 36.528
2017 BMX Championships: Women’s Elite
Gold: Alise Post (USA) — 33.235
Silver: Caroline Buchanan (AUS) — 33.243
Bronze: Mariana Pajon (COL) — 33.989