Tory Nyhaug hoping his best will be enough to medal in Rio
‘There are literally 20 guys who can medal,’ says Canadian rider
Tory Nyhaug knows he has what it takes to win a medal in BMX racing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The problem, Nyhaug said, is there are a lot of other riders who are just as capable of winning a medal.
"The great thing about BMX is there are literally 20 guys who can medal and no one would be surprised," said the 24-year-old Coquitlam, B.C., native who will attend his second Olympic Games in Rio.
"I don't know many other sports at the Olympics are like that. If I race my best and have a good day, I have no doubt I could medal. I'm just going to go and leave it all on the track and be proud and then I'll be happy regardless if I have a medal or not."
Nyhaug began riding BMX when he was four-years-old and was just nine when he attended his first world championships as an amateur.
"I won every round leading up to the final and then I crashed and wound up placing fourth," Nyhaug recalled. "It was a good test for me to see where I stacked up against the world's best riders."
Since then Nyhaug has toured the world competing in BMX and said his passion for racing remains as strong today as it ever was.
"I think it is important to have a passion for your sport and treat every race like it is a big deal," Nyhaug said.
Thrills and spills
Nyhaug has had his share of thrills over the year, but he has also suffered his share of spills. Wear and tear on the body, Nyhaug insisted, is a fact of life in BMX. His first serious injury was a broken hand when he was six-years-old, and then at 14, he crashed at his home track of Ridge Meadows BMX in Pitt Meadows, B.C., and suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken collarbone and a concussion.
"I was knocked out and don't really remember the crash," Nyhaug said. "It was bad."
Not so bad that it kept him down for long. Six weeks later, Nyhaug won a major U.S. national event in Salt Lake City.
In 2010 Nyhaug ruptured his spleen at an event in South Africa and spent a few days in hospital. He missed a month of competition and his spleen healed. However, in his final big tune-up race before the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, he crashed again and re-ruptured his spleen.
"It was tough," said Nyhaug, who finished 18th at that event. "I had it removed nine weeks before the Games so by time I got back on my bike I was only on the track for three weeks before the competition. Going in I knew I was at a disadvantage so I just focused on being the best I could. It is frustrating to know you have more to give, but you just can't at the time."
Plenty of medals
Nyhaug has won plenty of medals including a silver at the 2014 world championships in Rotterdam, and a gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015. Nyhaug stole the show in Toronto, winning all his heats, much to the delight of the home crowd, and then the final. He said the Pan Am gold is special to him because the event was held in Canada, in front of friends and family and once again he was coming off a serious injury.
In November of 2014 he broke his foot badly and had six screws implanted leaving him little prep time for the Pan Am Games.
Along the way Nyhaug beat an impressive field that included his best friend, American racer Connor Fields. The U.S. rider said he was not surprised to see Nyhaug come back strongly from his injury.
"I have been competing against since we were eight-years-old and he has always been really intense," Fields said. "He takes it very, very seriously — he always has — and he always wants to do really well. Some guys on race day will talk and will be goofy and laid back, but Tory just goes off into his own world and is really intense."
Admittedly, Nyhaug has had an up-and-down year leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games.
"I won all the World Cup time trials, which is awesome, and I feel faster than ever," Nyhaug said. "I got a top five at the first World Cup event in Argentina, but at the last few World Cups I got pushed off the track and had crashes. I'll keep my fingers crossed for Rio."