Published: 10 August 2012
Report: Eddie Allen
Image: PA Wire
Great Britain’s Shanaze Reade was numb after finishing outside of the medals in the Olympic women’s BMX finals, following an impressive run in the earlier semi finals.
Reade qualified for the one-shot final in style, winning one of her three semi final heats and grabbing second places in the other two, good enough to claim the inside gate in the final. This and her trademark blistering start made her a strong bet for a medal prospect as she lined up at the gate in front of a 7000 strong crowd including Prime Minister David Cameron, sat next to football legend David Beckham.
However, the heat and the intense schedule had taken its toll – a bad start for Reade signalling the end of her challenge before the race had entered the first turn. A disappointed Shanaze spoke to the BBC shortly after the finals, which also saw disappointment for Liam Phillips, who crashed out of his final after pulling a pedal.
"Today's schedule has been pretty hard,” admitted the multiple world champion. ”I just tried to stay focused and do my best and it just wasn't good enough.
“At the moment, I'm pretty emotionless,” continued Reade.”I'm sure it'll sink in. I can't thank all these people enough for supporting me and I don't really know what to say. I just didn't get the start I needed to win the race and that was it."
The race format for the women moved from a seeding run on Thursday, which determined grid positions and the draw for today’s semi finals, which were run over two heats, each with three runs, the top four riders going into an all or nothing single run final – a cruel format that can see defeat or victory separated by a single technical error or the sudden onsite of nerves or fatigue.
This was particularly cruel for Reade, whose progression to the final was a model of consistency. “I've worked for four years for this and it's over,” said Reade poignantly.” I've just got to pick myself up and come back.”
Reade went on to describe her instinctive reactions during the final, with the glittering prize of gold just 40 tantalising seconds away; “I did everything I could. It's fantastic everyone's come out and supported me. I'm just gutted I didn't get a medal.
"I didn't want to go too early on the start and mess up my chances. I backed back a little bit and by the time I did that, I was on the inside, so everybody was closing in and I couldn't come back from that."
With Reade’s start costing her a medal placing, the Briton finishing sixth just ahead of fancied rider Magalie Pottier of France, whose medal dreams had also come to nought, and it was left to Colombia’s Mariana Pajon to claim a richly deserved gold ahead of Sarah Walker of New Zealand and Laura Smulders of the Netherlands, the diminutive South American able to back up stunning semi final rides with a pitch perfect medal run.