BEIJING (Reuters) - Anne-Caroline Chausson showed age was no handicap in BMX on Friday, winning the first Olympic gold in the adrenaline-fuelled cycling event 21 years after her first world title.
The 30-year-old Frenchwoman was world champion in her age group in 1987 at the age of just 10, and added more two world titles in 1992 and 1993.
She then switched to mountain bike, harvesting 16 more world titles in various disciplines before deciding to retire in 2006.
It was only after a chance conversation that she discovered her childhood sport was about to become a medal event and decided to give it a second chance.
“This is really the result of two years of very hard work,” said Chausson, who beat compatriot Laetitia Le Gorguille for a French one-two.
The Frenchwoman outclassed her rivals in her series and her semi-finals and tackled the final a little more cautiously than world champion 19-year-old Shanaze Reade of Britain.
The two favorites were wheel to wheel in the final turn when Reade’s front wheel touched Chausson’s backwheel. The Briton crashed out 10 meters from an Olympic medal.
“She tried too hard and tackled that turn just a little bit too tight. I knew I had to take it wider not to lose speed in the final stretch,” Chausson said.
But this time, enough really is enough for Chausson.
“This was definitely my last professional BMX race. I might do a couple of mountain bike races to say hi to all the mountain bike pals I let down for two years,” she said.
Editing by Alison Williams