BMX Olympic Countdown
When you're competing in the Olympics, maintaining a low profile can be tough ... unless your sport is new to the Games and virtually unknown. That will all change on Thursday morning at 10AM ET when BMX makes it's Olympic debut.
BMXers, welcome to the Olympics.
Until arriving in China late Thursday night, this "event" was nothing more than a shapeless idea in the minds of the Games' newest athletessomething they talked about in interviews and daydreamed about on long plane flights. Standing in the lunch line, sandwiched between an NBA star and a world-record holder, it suddenly became very real. "My first 'we're at the Olympics' moment was when we got on the bus at the airport to come to the village," Day recalls. "There was someone to take our bags and put them on the bus for us. They wouldn't let us do anything. They treated us like celebrities." And that's before Day and his teammates even competed. Of the 10,500 athletes here in Beijing, very few recognize the faces of their newest Olympic peersin fact, many never got the memo that BMX was even added to the lineup. "I met one of the track-and-field athletes, and he thought it was cool we were here," Day says. "But he didn't know BMX was in the Olympics."
KB: "They're athletes and they deserve to be in the Olympics. And it's a really fun sport to watch."
EXPN: So you've watched a BMX race?
KB: "Well, no. I've not."
EXPN: Do you know what BMX stands for?
KB: "No, I do not."
EXPN: Did you know one of the women who's favored to win is a Brit?
KB: "Yes, I did actually. Very exciting."
EXPN: Do you know Shanaze Reade?
KB: "I'm not sure. Who?"
This conversation will change come Wednesday, after the riders take their first laps around the Olympic course. The seeding races Wednesday morning and the semi-finals and finals Thursday morning will be shown live on NBC (that's 10 p.m. ET Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 20-21) and there's not a spot in Beijing where you can't watch live coverage of the Games. Video screens are set up outside malls, on the sides of buildings, in cabs, on the subway and, of course, in the athlete dorms. By Thursday's final, the BMXers should be the cool kids in the Village. "Right now, we're the nerds sitting by ourselves at lunch," Day says.
The biggest shock to all four riders' systems since arriving in Beijing is how much the city of has changed since they were here for their test event 11 months ago. "Where there used to be dusty, dirt lots there are now flowers and trees and beautiful statues. Everything is so green," Kintner says. "The air is cleaner. And all the buildings and stadiums were under construction when we were here, so to see it all unveiled is amazing. This is going to be a tough act [for London] to follow."
But for now, they are focused on one thing: winning the inaugural Olympic BMX race. During the gymnastics medal ceremony, Robinson talked about seeing a shiny gold medal up close. U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis, who won the first gold medal for the U.S. at these Games, brought her prize to a dinner the BMX team attended Friday night. "I didn't look at it, though," Robinson says. "I want one of my own."
Our girl Jill Kintner is blogging about her Olympic experience! Check it out right here.
Follow Alyssa Roenigk on Twitter: @ESPN_Alyssa