BMX Racing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics

Relatively new to the Olympic Games, BMX (Bicycle Motocross) racing first appeared at the 2008 Beijing Games. The male racers will compete in the 2012 London Games August 8–10, and the women on August 8 and 10. Each competing country can enter only three men and two women in the BMX races.

Although BMX is thought of as an American sport, with roots in California in the 1960s, the gold medal winners in Beijing were Maris Stromberg from Latvia and Anne-Caroline Chausson from France.

The London outdoor tracks are fairly short, 470 meters long for the men and 430 meters long for the women, and each race lasts a mere 40 seconds or so. Racers start on a ramp that is 8 meters high, and both tracks have the tightly banked corners and jumps that make motocross an exciting spectacle.

Banked corners are referred to as berms by those in the know, and whoops are small bumps in the track that resemble waves.

The first day of competition determines is called the seeding phase. Each competitor runs the track once and their scores and times are then tallied to ensure that the fastest riders won't meet until the final competition.

The women move straight from the seedings phase to the semi-finals, whie the men must compete in a quarter-finals round. The quarter-final races are a series of five races; judges award points on each run. The best two competitors from the first three quarter-final runs go to the semi-finals. The remaining competitors compete in two additional quarter-final runs, with the best two from each also going to the semi-finals.

Both men and women compete in three runs during the semi-finals. The top four competitors in each semi-final go on to the finals. The medals are determined based on the final run.

The first rider to take the lead after the start of the race is called a holeshot.

Judges, or race officials, watch the riders carefully and note any rule infringements. Some officials are responsible only for the start or finish lines; others are stationed along the course to ensure regulations are met.

For example, riders cannot deliberately interfere with other riders, obstruct other riders racing lines in the final straight-away, or come into contact with other riders. If a rider receives two warnings from the officials, they are disqualified.

As a penalty, the officials can even send a competitor to the back of the back (last place), regardless of where the rider actually places.

Besides those watching the riders during the race, some officials are inspectors, who make sure that all the bikes meet the International Federation regulations. BMX bikes have only one gear and one brake and 20-inch wheels, which are smaller than the norm.

To learn more about BMX racing, check out the Cycling BMX page on Olympic.org. For a full schedule of the 2012 Olympic Games, check out the official website, at London2012.com.

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