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BMX Champ Connor Fields Reflects On The 2020 That Was To Be

By Joanne C. Gerstner | Oct. 02, 2020, 1:12 p.m. (ET)

Connor Fields competes in the Cycling BMX - Men's Quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on Aug. 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 

By this point in the year, reigning Olympic BMX racing gold medalist Connor Fields should be enjoying a relaxing break and making some important life memories. It would be the time for his post-Olympic rest and turning his focus to his long-planned, big October wedding with family and friends.

And it may have been the start of the serious considerations of moving into the next chapter of his life, after a long and stellar BMX career.

But the Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BMX competition season scrapped and the wedding has shifted to an unknown date in the future.

This year was personally and professionally nothing like Fields, 28, could have imagined or prepared for.

“It’s been tough, especially after the cancelation of the Olympics — that was the hardest with no events on the calendar,” Fields said. “I had no idea what was going on. In the early stages of the pandemic, there was a lot of fear because nobody knew how bad this was going to get. For me, I am pretty regimented with my schedule. I am super goal-oriented, so I push myself to get there.

“But when you have nothing to schedule around, it was hard to stay motivated to train. Adjusting to a looser schedule was a mindset. No matter if it is a good day training, or mediocre, I give myself slack now. I get credit for showing up.”

Fields was primed for a strong 2020, winning two of the first three world cup competitions of the season in February. He was named Male Athlete of the Month for Team USA Awards presented by Dow. 

And then everything shut down because of COVID. Fields came home to Las Vegas, hoping to see how the qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 ended up. The spring became summer, and the postponements and cancelations piled up.

Fields and his fiancée decided to move the wedding to sometime in the future, wanting a day where people can freely gather, dance and celebrate their union without fear of COVID.

“It’s a real bummer, we kept looking at what was happening, and we knew there was no way we could have the wedding we wanted with all that is going on,” Fields said. 

There have been some bright spots for Fields during the past few months.

He was named the world cup season champion two weeks ago, thanks to his leading spot in the points when the schedule was frozen. He celebrated on Instagram with a post showing him climbing out of bed, seeing the news and heading to his kitchen to put a celebratory mini-bottle of bubbly in his cereal.

“I honestly had no idea they were going to award the championship this year, I was super surprised when I woke up to that news,” Fields said. “I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool,’ and went and did that Instagram post for fun.

Fields filled the holes in in schedule by accelerating his classes at UNLV, taking advantage of being home and everything being moved online. He expects to finish his business management degree in December, checking off a big life accomplishment.

He also has gotten back to his roots in BMX, working as a coach and mentor to young kids just starting out racing at a local track.

“Typically, with all the traveling I do, I can’t coach,” said Fields, who is on the road 30 weeks per year during the BMX season. “It’s been so nice to have the time to do some riding schools and coaching kids at a very beginner level. Brings me back to the basics of why I enjoy the sport — seeing the joy of a kid just learning how to get their wheels off the ground, stuff like that. 

“It’s the total opposite of where I am in the sport, where you are always tracking your diet, squatting 400 pounds, having to win every race or deal with the pressure. It’s nice to get back to raw love of being in the sport and being on a bike.”

Fields hopes the questions he has about next year’s schedule will soon be answered. He has his first BMX race scheduled for Nov. 26-29 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He intends on following the same training regimen that served him so well at the start of the 2020, hoping it will be what he needs to be ready for Tokyo.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve thought about all the what-ifs with what is going on,” Fields said. “I was ready for my third Olympics, I had a lot of confidence and calm, because I knew what was coming. Well, the joke was on me, because we had something happen like COVID that we’ve never seen before. It changed everything and left everybody around the world with a lot of uncertainty about how things are going to happen next year. I just am going to stay ready.”

Joanne C. Gerstner

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Connor Fields