Courtesy of USA BMX
Friday, July 29, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Just as the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooks Rio de Janeiro, a poster of the famous sculpture overlooks Connor Fields’ living room.
The 23-year-old Olympian has kept the poster there since the 2012 Summer Games in London as a reminder of his next target.
Fields, a Green Valley High graduate, finished seventh in the BMX racing event in London and hopes to bring home a medal this August in Rio de Janeiro.
“The entire sport has gotten better and everyone is getting quicker. I’m a lot better but so is everyone else,” said Fields, who was the youngest BMX rider in the last Olympics. “This time I’m more experienced and have seen a lot more things on the race track, so I’m a lot more equipped for what they’re going to throw at me.”
Fields zipped through the qualifying races in London and was the No. 1 seed heading into the final race, but nerves got the better of him.
“Going to the Olympics is a pretty big deal but being that it was my first time I didn’t know what to expect,” Fields said. “I had competed in the Pan American Games but nothing compares to the Olympics when it comes to the media, the hype and spectacle surrounding it.”
“What it came down to was I got a little excited before the final and I was thinking I was going to win, and didn’t focus on taking it one step at a time,” he continued said. “I had already jumped to finish line before I was out of the gates.”
Fields takes years of experience with him down to Rio, including competing in every World Championship since 2011, and a seventh place finish in the 2015 Pan American Games.
“I think it’s going to help for sure, but at the end of the day it’s still going to be stressful and it’s still going to be tough,” Fields said. “But having been there before and knowing what to expect there won’t be any massive curveballs.”
Fields admits the pressure of competing for your country on the world’s biggest athletic stage could have played a factor in London.
“Imagine every emotion that you can feel — excited, nervous, anxious, stress — and then turn them all the way up to 10 all at once,” Fields said.
The Southern Nevada native has been training in Chula Vista, Calif., and doesn’t leave for Brazil for another two weeks because the BMX races aren’t until Aug. 17 -18.
“I’m preparing in a more mature way,” Fields said. “This time around I just understand that while preparation is important, performing on the actual day of the event is the most important part so I just have to get myself ready for that.”
Unlike many sports stars who have declined to compete in Brazil, Fields has no reservations about the conditions in Rio.
“None at all,” Fields said. “I’ve been to the Olympics before and I know how much work goes into keeping the athletes and the spectators safe and everything in line. I was in Rio this March for a test event and it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.”
While BMX is a relatively young Olympic sport — 2016 will only be its third Olympics — Fields feels the sport is growing in popularity, particularly in his hometown of Las Vegas.
“On the local level I’ve watched it grow in the valley,” Fields said. “Vegas is one of the best spots in the country that I’ve seen for competing locally.”
Fields competed in the World Cup circuit while still in high school in Las Vegas, and recorded podium finishes in 2009 and 2010.
“I think obviously to take it to the next step in the Olympics an American has to win and hold the torch to get people interested,” Fields said. “You have to do something pretty special if you want to get attention. BMX has a chance in particular because it’s such an exciting sport to watch.”
The U.S. has never taken gold in BMX. Mike Day and Donny Robinson took silver and bronze in Beijing in 2008, and no American won a medal in London.
Fields looks forward to changing that this summer while representing the stars and stripes.
“It means a lot,” Fields said. “Obviously getting to represent your country and race in the biggest sporting event in the world is a cool feeling. It’s what all of us Olympians have in common. We all work hard and sacrifice a lot, and we all do it for that feeling when you don that jersey and they announce your name.”