Tory Nyhaug came within inches of winning Canada’s first ever Olympic medal in BMX, but had to settle for a fifth place finish at Rio 2016.
Nyhaug, the world silver medallist in 2014, didn’t get a great start out of the gate in the one-run final and had to work to find space to move up through the pack, but ran out of race track before he could break into the top three for a spot on the podium.
“I got caught in some traffic and tried to find a way. There was guys battling everywhere so it was tough lap,” said Nyhaug. “I wish I would have found a place sooner but I did the best I could.”
“I saw guys coming together so I tried to come underneath in the last turn and pass them on the last straight, but they were too far ahead,” he later added.
Nyhaug had been one of the stars of Thursday’s quarterfinals in which riders were divided into four heats of eight and each heat raced three times. The four riders in each heat with the lowest cumulative placements advanced to Friday’s semifinals.
In his quarterfinal, Nyhaug won the first two runs and finished second in the other. That set him up nicely for the two-heat semifinals, which followed the same three-run format.
Nyhaug’s starting troubles began in those semifinals, however. In his first run he got caught near the back of the pack and ended up crossing the line in sixth place. That meant he needed to really push for the front in the remaining two runs, which he did, finishing third both times. The combined placements just got him into the eight-man final, the first for a Canadian man in Olympic BMX competition.
“It’s really cool being in an Olympic final, I had a lot of fun today,” said Nyhaug. “Fifth place in the Olympics is good, obviously disappointed not to have a medal but I’m proud that I left it all on the track and gave it my best.”
Four years ago, Nyhaug was lucky just to be able to compete at London 2012 after rupturing his spleen and having it removed just 11 weeks earlier. He went on to finish 18th. In Rio he was able to become Canada’s best finisher ever, surpassing the seventh place by Sammy Cools in the women’s race during the sport’s debut at Beijing 2008.