Photo: Mariana Pajon in the lead
Mariana Pajon’s triumph here Friday in the women’s BMX cycling competition brought Colombia its first gold medal of the 2012 London Olympics.
The 20-year-old from Medellin outclassed more experienced rivals such as New Zealand’s Sarah Walker and Dutch cyclist Laura Smulders, who took the silver and bronze, respectively.
Pre-competition favorite Caroline Buchanan of Australia and the reigning Olympic champion, France’s Laetitia Corguille, finished out of the medals.
“I did it with heart,” Pajon, who carried her country’s flag in the Olympic opening ceremony, said later. “I battled with the heart of all Colombians, with a lot of energy. “I thought that it was a unique moment with all Colombia watching and I couldn’t disappoint.”
The Andean nation also had something to celebrate in the men’s BMX competition, where Carlos Oquendo came out of nowhere to take the bronze medal.
On paper, Colombia’s best chance for success in the men’s BMX lay with Carlos Jimenez, who finished fourth four years ago at the Beijing Olympics, but Oquendo emerged Friday as the stronger competitor.
Only Latvia’s Maris Strombergs - who remains the only man to win gold since BMX became an Olympic event - and Sam Willoughby of Australia surpassed Oquendo’s performance.