Alise Willoughby competes at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug.17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Two-time world champion Alise Willoughby was back on top at the first UCI BMX Supercross World Cup event of the year Saturday in Shepparton, Australia. The Olympic silver medalist in BMX at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 was the victor in the first round of races, with Round 2 slated for Sunday.
Willoughby, currently ranked No. 2 in the world behind Laura Smulders of the Netherlands, held her own comfortably Down Under, completing the Shepparton course in 36.345 seconds in the final, 0.126 ahead of Australia’s Saya Sakakibara, while Mariana Pajon of Colombia was 1.227 back for third. Smulders, normally Willoughby’s main rival on the circuit, was fourth, 1.235 back.
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The 29-year-old Willoughby, an eight-time U.S. champion in BMX, has enjoyed a steady rise to the top since taking up the sport as a 6-year-old in St. Cloud, Minnesota. In addition to her silver medal in Rio, in 2017 she took her first world title in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In 2019, she added a second world title and medaled in six of eight world cup races.
The Netherlands’s Niek Kimmann emerged as the victor in Round 1 of the men’s competition in Shepparton, navigating the course in a blistering 33.040 seconds, ahead of the host country’s Anthony Dean and Izaac Kennedy, who finished 0.148 and 0.316 back, respectively. 2016 Olympic champion Connor Fields finished just off the podium in fourth, 0.458 behind the leader.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.