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Originally published Friday, August 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Olympics

Kintner earns BMX bronze

Kirkland's Jill Kintner, banged up and all, comes home with a bronze medal. The debut of BMX on the Olympics stage here Friday morning brought...

McClatchy Newspapers

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BEIJING — Kirkland's Jill Kintner, banged up and all, comes home with a bronze medal.

The debut of BMX on the Olympics stage here Friday morning brought the bronze on the U.S. side in the women's race, and silver and bronze for the men.

Kintner, 26, only returned to BMX last year after spending four years focusing on mountain-bike racing, winning most of the major titles in that sport before returning to BMX.

"I'm just so happy," said Kintner, adding that the medals going to U.S. riders will likely give a boost to BMX racing in the United States. "We got three medals out of six. That's pretty damn good."

Kintner started riding bikes on neighborhood tracks in Burien, where she'd follow her brother Paul, jumping off dirt piles and ditches. Little did she know BMX would become an Olympic sport.

Kintner, a sponsored BMX rider since her Juanita High School days, competed in Beijing wearing a brace on a knee blown out in training crashes.

U.S. riders on Friday captured half of the top six medals in BMX, a new sport in the Summer Games, in a day filled with numerous crashes and high-speed sprints.

Latvian cyclist Maris Strombergs, a current European champion, captured the gold medal in the men's event, and U.S. riders Mike Day, 23, and Donny Robinson, 25, won the silver and bronze medals.

"Everything was just kind of clicking. I had a great start. Silver? I'm psyched," said Day, a former No. 1 in the world who is from Santa Clarita, Calif.

On the women's side, French riders Anne-Caroline Chausson and Laetitia le Corguille took gold and silver, respectively.

Nearly every other heat had a crash or tumble, some involving multiple riders.

"Turn No. 1, that's where the carnage is happening!" shouted Michael Redman, the color commentator, as Swiss rider Roger Rinderknecht's wheels came out from under him, leading to a tumble in a semifinal run.

Riders reached speeds of up to 35 miles per hour leading into the sharply banked turn, which usually defined the outcome of each 40- to 45-second heat.

The Laoshan Bicycle Motocross course in western Beijing involves eight riders in each heat in a breakneck winner-take-all race over jumps, through tight turns and into a final sprint.

A blazing sun dried out the mud-and-asphalt course after a daylong rain delay.

BMX began life in the late 1960s as a backyard sport on dirt tracks and sometimes involving trick riding, but has evolved into a sport with professional circuits in North America and Europe. Riders from South Africa, South America and Australia are also highly rated.

Bicycle Motocross, as BMX is formally known, made its debut at these Summer Games, introducing an alternative sport with fast-paced racing, thrilling jumps and a high likelihood of crashes.

Supporters say the BMX racers are every bit as athletic as other Olympians, but truth be told, Olympic organizers added the edgy sport to appeal to younger television viewers. Indeed, scores of television cameras scattered about the track almost seemed to outnumber spectators.

Seattle Times staff contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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