SA clinch two world titles on final day of BMX

2010-08-02 00:00

THE curtain came down on the UCI BMX World Championships at the Royal Showgrounds yesterday with two South African women in the cruiser class claiming world titles.

Racing in front of a hysterical crowd, 52-year-old Pietermaritzburg stalwart Sharlene McGillvray clinched the gold in her main final in the women’s 45+ age group, before Kloof schoolgirl Teagan O’Keefe ended the day’s racing by scorching to an emphatic victory in the elite junior girls’ final.

The biggest drama of the day was reserved for the elite junior boys’ cruiser final. The race leader, Colombian ace David Oquendo Zabala, crashed ahead of a tightly bunched chasing pack coming out of the first turning berm, which saw the group disintegrate into a pile-up.

It took down all seven chasers, four of them Brazilian, and sent bikes and riders flying across the track.

No riders were seriously hurt and Zabala still went on to win the race.

O’Keefe’s victory came against the backdrop of massive pressure on her to perform — not only from the packed stands but also from Cycling South Africa, who have supported her to train abroad as part of their elite development programme.

The pink-haired master rider, McGillvray, converted the pressure of the massive hometown expectations into a staggering charge through her main final that saw her shrug off her world number two ranking to beat Jennifer Strachan of New Zealand and Liesbeth van Jagt of the Netherlands, sending the big crowd into raptures.

“It was great to win in my hometown, but the pressure was not easy to handle,” she said afterwards.

“I took the decision on the start ramp not to touch my brakes,” she added. That brave gamble paid handsome dividends as she secured a critical holeshot that set up her victory.

In the morning session, France showed its rich vein of form in the older junior ranks and 17-24 class, when their men repeated their total domination of the challenger events in these age groups.

American star Felicia Stancil looked to be on track to win the double in her 15-16 class, but she failed to see a heroic charge to the line by Kiwi Nicole Wright, who snuck home ahead of the world number one to deny her a clean sweep of the gold medals.

New Zealand racer Nicole Sarten proved to be peerless in her 17-24 main final, as she quickly turned the race into a procession.

In the 25-29 main final, Aussie star Mardi Katakasi was eclipsed by the nuggety Briton Ria Goodman, who snatched an early lead and robustly denied the Aussie any opportunity to pass.

Dutch cruiser title contender Joyce Seesing was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone suffered during her warm-up before the first elite motos.

At the finish, the international cycling federation was quick to label the event “the best-ever” BMX World Champs.

“We often say that after a world champs, but this time we can say it honestly and truthfully,” said the UCI head of gravity disciplines, Johan Lindstrom.

“It has been fantastic for BMX and we are all on a high,” he added. “All of the riders have had a great time in Pietermaritzburg. I must admit that many of them had their doubts, but it has been brilliant.”

The competition closed with the formal presentation of the UCI flag to representatives of the city of Stockholm, where the 2011 World Championships will be hosted.

YESTERDAY’S RESULTS

Cruiser Class

Elite men: 1.Renato Rezende BRA; 2.Andres Jiminez Caicedo COL; 3.Carlos Oquendo Zabala COL

Elite women: 1.Mariana Pajon COL; 2.Romana Labounkova CZE; 3.Vilma Rimsaite LTU

Elite junior boys: 1.David Oquendo Zabala COL; 2.Benjamin Clarke AUS

Elite junior girls: 1.Teagan O’Keefe RSA; 2.Enora la Roux FRA

National teams: 1.USA; 2.Australia; 3.Netherlands

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