Friday, August 10, 2012



LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Mariana Pajon, Colombia's flag bearer at the opening ceremony, earned her country their first gold medal of the London Games when she thundered to victory in the women's BMX event on Friday.

Pajon, also the second Colombian to win an Olympic gold after weightlifter Maria Isabel Urrutia prevailed in Sydney in 2000, had dominated her three semi-final runs in awe-inspiring fashion.

She carried the momentum in the final where she led the eight-rider strong field after the first bend and never looked back, something she was happy to do at a news conference later.

"I started gymnastics when I was five, but I started BMX when I was three," she recalled, beaming with joy.

"I was doing gymnastics, BMX and cart racing. However BMX wasn't at the Olympics and I wanted to be here, then BMX was introduced in Beijing and I started training.

"I started racing when I was three and I realised I could do this and do it well. I started winning at four with the boys and won my first world title at eight."

New Zealand's Sarah Walker took silver and Dutchwoman Laura Smulders claimed bronze while local British hopeful Shanaze Reade had to settle for sixth.

She finished just behind Caroline Buchanan of Australia, the BMX time trial world champion.

"I can't believe it," said Pajon, who blew kisses to the capacity crowd. "It's like a dream come true. I've been trying to win this my whole life. I just wanted go out of the gate and win it. It's unbelievable."

On a very tricky course, Pajon once again used her explosive start to take the early lead, which proved unassailable for her rivals.

"I have tried so hard for it and I just did it," she said. "I felt really strong, I had really good gates and that's it. I really had fun on it. I have to wake up tomorrow and realise what I have just won." (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Meadows and Michael Holden)

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