To describe an Olympic loss as "hard" is an understatement, but it’s the first word that comes to BMXer Connor Fields’ mind when describing his seventh-place finish in the London Games in 2012.
“I was the No. 1 seed in the final, and I, in my heart, in my soul, expected I was going to come home with a medal,” Fields tells Us Weekly. “And then our event is over so fast -- in 30 seconds it was done. I didn’t get the medal that I had set out to get and it was very hard to swallow, and it’s something that I’ve been dealing with for the last three and a half years. It’s something that’s fueled the fire for Rio.”
The athlete, now 23, was just 19 at the London Olympics, competing for the first time professionally (BMXers must be 19 to race at the elite level). After the loss, he just kept riding to mask the pain.
“I was racing again three weeks later, and I raced like six more times in 2012, so I just kind of covered up the disappointment with, ‘I’m going to keep racing, keep racing, keep racing, keep racing,’” the Ralph Lauren–sponsored athlete explained. “So I never really had to stop and deal with it until a year or two later, when it kind of sunk in more.”
Back then, Fields says, his “whole world was London.”
“There was nothing else; it was London. And I was Connor Fields, the BMX racer,” he explains. “I didn’t have anything else going on in my life. I think now I’m a lot more balanced, and I understand that I can go and I can win in Rio, and it would be amazing and it would be a dream come true, but there is more to me than just that. If I lose, I understand that again there is more to life than just that medal, whereas four years ago I would live and die by the medal.”
In April, Fields' dreams were almost dashed, as he broke his hand in preparation for the second round of the BMX World Cup. Fortunately, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, student shared good news with his followers.
“It is finally official: After starting off the Olympic qualification period in some of the best form of my life, I was thrown a massive curveball with my injury,” he posted on Instagram on June 23. “It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through, but the story still has a chance for a happy ending. I am now 100% healthy and I have officially qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.”
The only thing that could be sweeter would be getting that elusive medal.
“It would mean the world,” he said. “All the sacrifices that I’ve made, every day, from the time I was a kid — skipping school dances, not hanging out with my friends, not getting to try new things, not getting to have a normal college experience, doing all of the things that I didn’t get to do because I was training or racing. It would be such a great way to almost be rewarded for all my efforts. The other way I look at it is that it’s the greatest gift I could give to everybody along the way who helped me. If I could have that medal, it would almost be the greatest way to say, 'Thank you; you helped me earn this.'”