When Filipino-American BMX rider Daniel Caluag represents the Philippines in the 2012 London Olympics starting August 8, he’ll be looking at a potential run at a medal in an event where the results could be very difficult to predict.
BMX is a fairly new sport to the Olympics, debuting in 2008 in Beijing. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a bicycle race that runs on an off-road, motocross-style course designed with a series of obstacles like ramps that allow riders to launch themselves into the air and some tight turns.
Caluag, the only Asian to qualify for the London Games, had strong showings leading into the Olympics, including a quarterfinal finish in the UCI BMX World Championships in Birmingham, England that clinched a seat in London.
Caluag also has an impressive track record as a pro, finishing with a No. 1 ranking in the AA Pro in 2007 and the Pro Cruiser three consecutive years.
Because of these accomplishments in the sport, Caluag was earlier named by Philippine team chef de mission Manny Lopez as one of two Filipino athletes most likely to contend for a medal, alongside boxer Mark Anthony Barriga.
But Caluag will face some stiff competition in the BMX event including 2008 Beijing gold medalist and two-time world champion Maris Stombergs and reigning world champion Sam Willoughby.
He’ll also have to contend with three members of the US Olympic team, a squad he failed to qualify for before he decided to represent the Philippines instead. The US won three out of the six medals in BMX in Beijing four years ago. 19-year-old BMX star Connor Fields is expected to be among the contenders as well.
Caluag was reportedly barred from training at the US national team facilities, said to include a replica of the Olympic course to be used in London, and had to move his preparations to the Netherlands.
But Caluag, with his pedigree and hopefully a little luck on his side, could certainly go far in the event and maybe even finish on the podium as the Philippines looks to end a medal drought that has spanned three Olympic Games.
With the unpredictable nature of BMX, where a crash at an inopportune time could have huge consequences in races that are usually decided by fractions of a second, Caluag could certainly spring a surprise, even among the best in the world.
Catch Daniel Caluag in action on Wednesday, August 8, beginning 10 p.m. on AKTV.
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