Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

His Goal: To Not Just Win, but 'Destroy the Competition'

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

His Goal: To Not Just Win, but 'Destroy the Competition'

Article excerpt

Connor Fields, who races wanting to "destroy the competition," is the first rider in BMX supercross history to win three straight World Cup final races.

Connor Fields lounged on his BMX bike this month at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. While most of his fellow riders met with representatives from Oakley, the sporting goods company, Fields surveyed the track, a replica of the one riders will race on at the London Olympics, and noted his disdain for goggles.

Asked why he elected not to wear them, what with the dirt and the rocks and the competitors on small bikes that can reach 40 miles, or nearly 65 kilometers, per hour, Fields laughed. "You don't get hit if you're in front," he said.

His coaches watch Fields on his bike and see no obvious historical comparison. Only 19 years old, Fields has won three consecutive World Cup final races, a first in the young BMX racing discipline of supercross, in which a handful of seconds separate the top slot from the bottom.

But Fields's rise to favorite for the London Games is not the tidy narrative of an athlete with transformative talent. His is the story of a father who acknowledged that he pushed his son too hard, of a coach who lost his job but not his pupil, of a rider who enrolled in college and almost quit BMX.

"We have these moments where we watch him, and we're like, 'He's really going to hurt himself,"' said Mike King, the BMX program director for U.S.A. Cycling. "And then, at the last millisecond, he can bring his bike back together. He'll throw it sideways, and when it looks like he's going into the face of the jump, at the last second, he'll land it, and you can see the body weight, the transition, the burst of speed he creates.

"I watch in amazement. You can't teach that."

To label Fields confident, King said, "would be putting it pretty mildly."

Fields does not disagree with that assessment. In fact, he said he compiled this stellar BMX season because he learned the difference between cocky and assured. ("My first impression?" the national team coach, James Herrera, said. "A cocky young punk with skills to match. And he still races that way.")

The most important lesson took place in 2010, at the junior world championships in South Africa. Fields led every lap he raced until the final one. He led that, too, at the beginning, but he continued to push harder, harder, harder, because he wanted to obtain the fastest lap time of the weekend. His mentality: "Kill everybody" and "destroy the competition."

But Fields crashed, while ahead by three bike lengths, a more than comfortable margin. He cried in the arms of his coach, Sean Dwight, for 20 minutes. The crash also aggravated a knee injury, which led to Fields's first extended absence from BMX.

His father, Mike, said Fields had sunk into depression when he missed seven months in late 2010 and early 2011 because of the injury and its aftermath. …

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