World champion Mariana Pajon successfully defended her Olympic BMX title after a faultless display in the semi-final and gold medal rides at the Olympic BMX Center in Deodoro today.
The Colombian was heavily backed by a large contingent of fans in the crowd and the 24-year-old did not disappoint them, winning all three of her semi-final rides to reach the gold medal contest.
Australia’s Caroline Buchanan, second to Pajon at this year’s World Championships in Medellín, would have expected to challenge for the gold medal but failed to claim one of the four qualifying spots in the second semi-final, despite winning the opening race.
Pajon continued her storming run of victories by hitting the front at the start of the gold medal ride and refusing to let her rivals past to win in 34.093sec.
The United States’ Alise Post secured the silver medal after clocking 34.435, with a time of 34.755 proving enough for Venezuela's Stefany Hernandez to win bronze.
There was disappointment Laura Smulders, the London 2012 bronze medallist, as the Dutchwoman crashed out of contention on a corner.
"I have a great support team behind me, I have a complete group dedicated to me, and thanks to them I was able to win gold,” said Pajon afterwards.
“And I would like to dedicate this gold medal to my country.
“This proves that anyone can achieve great things.
“It doesn't matter from where you come from, or your background, if you dedicate yourself and work hard, your dreams can come true.
“My preparation was very good, I stayed focused on the racing, and did not let my emotions get the best of me."
With Australia having failed to claim a gold medal during the track cycling programme, pressure was placed on Anthony Dean and Sam Willoughby to deliver in the men’s BMX event.
The pair benefited from France’s world champion Joris Daudet, Britain’s Liam Phillips and Latvia’s Maris Strombergs, the gold medallist from Beijing 2008 and London 2012, all crashing out in the quarter-finals.
Dean and Willoughby boasted a 100 per cent record from their semi-finals, but neither man could make an impression in the gold medal race, with the former crashing our and the latter ending sixth.
Instead it was American joy as Connor Fields hit the front early on and powered to victory in a time of 34.642.
The Netherlands' Jelle van Gorkom comes through to claim the silver medal in 35.316, while Carlos Ramirez Yepes of Colombia took bronze in 35.517.