I had the opportunity to sit down with Maris on a windy afternoon in Sarasota, Florida for the last round of the UCI WORLD CUP BMX SX Series. He was feeling pretty good about his riding, battling with Corben Sharrah and pulled off a very solid second place podium. Maris is a man who has done it all in BMX, winning every BMX title you can imagine. One of the things that I learned from Maris is that he just deals with the moment so well. And even if things are ready for him to deal with it just yet, like all champions, he loses his excuses and finds a way. Hope you enjoy the video, it shows how Maris dealt with adversity, fighting and struggling to make the finals in London 2012 Olympics, but he found a way to do it. And come main time, he was ready.
The hype in London was real, the city was buzzing with Olympic hype. This was my view outside my hotel window – The infamous “Tower Bridge” not to be confused with the very plain “London Bridge.”
The BMX Olympic Stadium was humongous and much more intimidating compared to Beijing BMX Olympic Stadium. The seating capacity was more than accommodating and the sharp angle of the bleachers made sure there wasn’t a bad view from any seat in the house. This design also made any noise coming from the sound system much more dramatic as well. As a former professional, I wished I had a chance to race in a venue like this.
Maris, in lane 7, had uncharacteristic issues with the gate, hitting it, being late, could never get the timing right on both qualifying days.
Maris using the grass berm to make the turn in semi qualifying. The grass line was by far the hardest one in London, adding major resistance as well a longer router to get to the last turn.
It wasn’t until the third semi where Maris got the gate that he is familiar with, seeing daylight mid way down the ramp and getting to the first jump first. This was the critical lap that not only put him in the mental winning state that he much needed to defend the title in the final, but it also put him in the final with third lane choice! Maris had high points going into the third lap semi here. If you can learn anything here, sometimes you just need to not overthink it, go back to what you’re confident in doing – if you’re having a bad day, we all know we can at least pull off one good gate and race lap!
This is the mens final. Sam Willoughby and Connor Fields were the standouts in qualifying along with Twan Van Gendt who beat our Maris in the last semi. The story was, Twan had cut off Connor right off the hop because he felt he was the biggest threat. Connor left a bit late and that’s all it took to shut him down. Liam Philips coming from 6 had a great start and had a great look of daylight going down the ramp and to the first jump. Maris got his default Machine like 1-2-3 cranks in and he was first to the bottom of the ramp.
Liam and Maris find separation from the field after the first jump.
Maris finds himself upfront and alone taking a very smart line covering the inside first. Sam is starting to move up and gets on the Machine’s wheel out of the first turn.
Maris looked confident and smooth in the back section of the London BMX Olympic course, getting enough air and pushing through this step jump was tricky, Maris had no issues when it counted.
This was the race down the third straight and Sam’s best chance to make a run at gold. Maris road smooth, maintained track speed and covered the inside here – nothing fancy, just racing with his head. Sam looked ridiculously fast all week. I remember watching him in practice just wasting everyone down the first straight by bike lengths on the next fastest competitor. Sam was in peak performance and a silver medal performance indicated that.
Hitting that last turn in a big race knowing that you’re one straight away from winning is a strange feeling at times. You’re in the position that everyone wants and you’re making it happen in front of thousands of people. You want it. You want to get to that finish line and get it over with. Maris was patient in focusing on getting over that first jump on the last straight, making sure he didn’t over rev the engine into it, nor relax so much to where Sam could pull up next to him. The Machine got through it just right.
Maris gets through that tricky step jump safely. A jump that took out a lot of top riders in time trials and qualifying.
The Machine “knew he got it” and coasted in seated after the last jump. I remember as I was filming this my thoughts were “wow, I can’t believe he just repeated.” He did not look like this on any lap throughout the week.
As Maris pulled up, you can see his coach Ivo Lackus with his hands over his face. Who could blame the feelings that he was experiencing as he watched the final nervously from the silly coaches box.
Sam and Maris give each other congratulations. Sam was the defending UCI World Champion in 2012. He had a fantastic season.
It hits Maris that it’s over and this is a real moment that he is experiencing here.
As they announced “Gold Medalist and Olympic Champion……”
The rewards of executing when it counts most. An Olympic Gold Medal.