Alise Willoughby of US, Joris Daudet of France win BMX racing world titles ahead of Paris Olympics

Alise Willoughby won her third BMX racing world championship on Saturday, the American standout taking the lead out of the starting gate, pulling away down the stretch and then throwing up her fist in triumph as she crossed over the finish line.

Willoughby was followed by Zoe Claessens of Switzerland and U.S. teammate Delany Vaughn, who also will be nominated for the American team that will head to the Paris Olympics by finishing on the world championship podium.

“Honestly, I always say this place has a special place in my heart,” said Willoughby, who won her first world title in 2017 over the same course in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “I wanted to deliver here — the U.S. fans, U.S.-based everything.”

Felicia Stancil finished fourth in a strong showing by the Americans, who also had Carly Kane in the finals.

In the men's race, Joris Daudet of France took the lead through the first corner and held off reigning Olympic champion Niek Kimmann of the Netherlands to win his third world title. French countryman Sylvain Andre was third.

Willoughby told The Associated Press before worlds that she valued her titles on that stage just as much as she would value Olympic gold, which has so far eluded her. Willoughby barely missed the Olympics in 2008 because of age limits, crashed out in the semifinal round four years later in London, and again crashed out in the semifinals three years ago in Tokyo.

Her only Olympic medal so far has been the silver that she took home from the 2016 Rio Games.

Now, Willoughby will get another opportunity at gold this July in Paris.

“It's such an honor to deliver on the day when you dream of it,” said the 33-year-old Willoughby, who waved an American flag during her celebration before finding her husband, coach and former BMX star Sam Willoughby and giving him a big hug.

“You hope for it,” she added, “but doing it is a whole other thing. So this feeling is so special. My family, friends, coaches, husband — they have been with me this whole, long ride, and it continues, and I'm still rising to my potential.”

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Bethany Schriever of Britain and two-time Olympic champ Mariana Pajon of Colombia crashed out of the semifinal round Saturday. World Cup champion Saya Sakakibara of Australia finished eighth in the finals.

In the men's final, Kimmann got out of the gate fastest, but Daudet had the inside position and was able to get under him going through the first left-hand turn. That forced Kimmann higher through the corner and he had to settle into second place, and the two-time world champion was never able to catch up the rest of the way.

Daudet, the 2011 and 2106 world champ, has been on the comeback from a February crash that left him with a broken collarbone.

“I thought I could do it, of course,” Daudet said, “but it's been a hard beginning of the season. But I always believed the job was done, and every time I line u pat the gate I know I can do it. It's amazing. I'm a bit speechless. It's so many hours of work and dedication and it all comes down to one lap and 30 seconds, and it's pretty intense. What a day.”


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