Pan Am BMXers hope to exploit home advantage
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Jul 08, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Pan Am BMXers hope to exploit home advantage

The Canadian BMX team says it is well-suited to the fast-paced course in Etobicoke, where the team raced at an event just three weeks ago

OurWindsor.Ca

Tory Nyhaug shrugs because it’s so obvious. A gold medal at the Pan Am Games would be a feather in his cap — rather, in the goggle strap around his full-face helmet.

The 23-year-old out of Coquitlam, B.C. is perhaps Canada’s best hope for a podium finish in the BMX event. He won the national title last week — his fifth straight victory — and feels he is primed to perform to his highest ability at the newly-built Centennial Park race track in Etobicoke, where the first heats of the BMX event begin Friday.

“To compete in a major event in Canada is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it’s going to be exciting,” said Nyhaug. He is currently ninth in the world rankings, first among Canadians.

“It’s not like a typical race where you have to spend every minute trying to figure out the track. We already kind of know the track. I’m just going to race the best I can and hopefully at the end I’m in the final and going for a podium.”

Nyhaug, one of four Canadian racers introduced to the media Wednesday, is the only member to have raced in the Olympics. He rode in London in 2012 but failed to advance to the semi-finals, just weeks after he ruptured his spleen for the second time at a BMX event and had the organ surgically removed. Since then, Nyhaug has cracked the podium on the World Cup circuit several times, claiming a career-best silver at the 2014 world championships.

The team also includes Jimmy Brown and Daina Tuchscherer, who are both from Airdrie, Alta., as well as Amelia Walsh, who has won three straight Canadian titles and is the highest ranked Canadian woman in the world at 26th.

Ken Cools, head coach of the national BMX team, said the expectations are high for the group. They all competed and placed well at a Canada Cup event at Centennial Park last month, and the fast-paced design of the Pan Am track is well suited to the athletes on his team, Cools said.

But the competition will be fierce. Some of the best racers in the sport are suiting up for the Pan Ams, including No. 2 ranked American Connor Fields and Colombia’s Mariana Pajon, the top-seeded female BMXer in the world and gold medallist at the London Olympics.

“The strengths we have, obviously, are having home-court advantage. We raced this track three weeks ago,” Cools said. “They’re all heading into peak form right now. They’re all doing some of their best results on the track, in the gyms, in training . . . We’re looking for some good results, some podium finishes, and hopefully getting on top of that box this weekend.”

For Walsh, the feeling of home is especially powerful; she grew up in Ayr, a small town south of Kitchener, and has relatives volunteering at the games.

“Definitely there’s that pressure, because, a lot of my friends and family, they actually haven’t seen me race. Half of them don’t even know what I do. So obviously you want to perform well, but there’s also that comfort knowing that they’re there 100 per cent behind you even if something does go wrong,” she said on Wednesday.

Nyhaug cautioned that, though the Canadians are familiar with the track, their opponents have all week to practice on it and will be ready to go when qualifying time trails start on Friday.

“On race day, it’s all going to be equal,” he said.

Toronto Star

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