The following is excerpted from a report by Jim Morris of The Canadian Press. Photos by Adrian Wyld of The Canadian Press, unless otherwise noted.
By Jim Morris, The Canadian Press
BEIJING -- There was dirt smeared on her jersey and disappointment in her voice but Sam Cools still managed a smile today after she crashed and did not finish the women's BMX final at the Olympic Games.
Cools smacked into the dirt about five seconds into the race. The tumble followed a mid-air collision with Argentina's Gabriela Diaz between the second and third jumps in the first-ever Olympic BMX final.
"I'm alive, I can, walk, that's all that matters," said the 22-year-old Airdrie, Alta., native. "It was frustrating when I was dusting myself off but really, I was there.
"I learned a lot and experienced so much for my first Olympics. I will take that onto the next one."
France finished 1-2, with Anne-Caroline Chausson taking gold and Laetita le Corguille winning silver. American Jill Kintner won bronze.
Putting the pedal-and-jump sport of BMX on the schedule was the Summer Olympics' way of dipping its toe into the X Games pool. There were cheerleaders on the sidelines and rock music -- no rap, mostly easy listening -- pumped through the speakers.
A large crowd jammed into bleachers under a blistering hot sun to watch the finals. Some Maple Leafs waved as Cools' family cheered for her. (Here, she waves to the crowd on her way back to the finish line.)
Cools liked the atmosphere.
"It's amazing," she said. "Everybody is so cool. I think a lot of people enjoyed it. I think it's the sport to watch in four years."
Cools came into the Olympics as the top North American and ranked seventh in the world by the International Cycling Union.
She has been battling a neck injury all season but finished fifth at the recent BMX world championships in Taiyaun, China.
Cools squeaked into the final by taking advantage of a fall by Jana Horakova of the Czech Republic to clinch the fourth and final spot in her semifinal race.
She had been in fifth place going into the third and final run of her group, and needed to finish at least two spots ahead of Horakova to move on.
"This morning I didn't even have practice because I had a mechanical problem," said Cools, who rode her first BMX bike when she was three years old. "My first lap on the track was my first time on the track this morning.
"I was nervous. I got through it. The second motto I was pissed off with everything that happened. In the third motto it was just acceptance. I just needed to go out there and race my best and whatever happens, happens. In the end I qualified.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to qualify but I did. Being in the final and falling, you can't be too upset. I learned so much. This Olympics really hasn't went my way but I've persevered and I'm confident for the next four years."
The semifinal and final were originally scheduled for Thursday but were delayed a day because of rain.
Bicycle motto cross is sort of like snowboard cross on dirt. The races last between 35 and 40 seconds on circuits of around 350 metres. The racers fly over jumps and grind around banked corners. Eight riders compete in each heat (qualifying rounds, quarter finals, semi-finals, finals) with the top four qualifying for the next round.
The Beijing course starts with a stomach-flopping, white-knuckle plunge down a steep hill just over two-storeys high, with the riders pedalling as fast as they can to get ready for the first jump.
The sport has a splash of NASCAR thrown in as the racers go pedal-to-pedal around tight corners. There can be crashes and bruises.