PA Sport

Relaxed Phillips ready to challenge for Rio BMX title

Relaxed Phillips ready to challenge for Rio BMX title
By PA Sport

16/08/2016 at 13:09Updated 16/08/2016 at 13:13

Liam Phillips plans to race for Olympic BMX gold with a smile on his face.

Liam Phillips plans to race for Olympic BMX gold with a smile on his face.

The 27-year-old from Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset will on Wednesday begin his third Olympic campaign.

He reached the quarter-finals in 2008 in Beijing and was a finalist at London 2012, 10 weeks after breaking his collarbone in a crash at the World Championships in Birmingham.

Phillips won the 2013 world title, the World Cup series in 2014 and 2015 - becoming the first man to defend the title - and has won four successive editions of the Manchester World Cup.

"I'm not interested in just going there and getting the kit," Phillips said.

"I want to go and try to become an Olympic champion. If I crash in that process, then so be it."

Phillips' partner is Jess Varnish, the former track sprinter whose exit from British Cycling led to a series of allegations which prompted the resignation of technical director Shane Sutton. Sutton denies the allegations.

Varnish will not be in Rio, but Phillips knows the Olympic experience is not one that can be taken for granted, particularly in the rough and tumble world of BMX, where a rider's race can soon end in a dusty heap.

"I want to enjoy the experience and go out and perform to my best," Phillips added.

"I know you can do everything you can to prepare and go there and be in the form of your life, but there are so many variables. Mistakes can happen and your race can be done.

"I love the Olympics. It's something I don't take for granted. To compete in front of an audience as large as that and to do a sport that I love is incredible.

"I try not to take it too seriously. A lot of athletes big it up to be so much more than it actually is.

"I think it's the opposite. It's an opportunity for me. I'll go out and enjoy it and do my best."

Phillips' team-mate Kyle Evans is to make his Olympic debut, while Latvia's Maris Strombergs will be aiming for a third straight title. Phillips, Connor Fields of the United States and Australia's Sam Willoughby will be among those looking to dethrone the Latvian.

Phillips' results have been impressive, but despite growing expectation he is confident of delivering.

"Over these last four years I've put myself in positions of extreme pressure. I know how that feels," he added.

"I feel like I do enough in training, day-in, day-out to prepare myself for that.

"Ultimately, it's just another start, going through that routine that I go through in training, national standard race, World Cup or World Championships."

Shanaze Reade was the women's favourite at London 2012, but appeared to freeze in the final before going down the start ramp, perhaps recalling her daring gold-or-nothing bid from Beijing four years before which did not come off.

Reade now races on the track, something Phillips experimented with in 2011 following a succession of injuries before he returned to BMX.

Phillips reckons experience will help him decide whether or not a manoeuvre is possible.

He added: "You can see if a move is on. I know Shanaze in Beijing, with my experience, there was no way it was going to come off. It was a throwaway silver medal. If you make a decision like that it haunts you forever.

"If the move is going to be 50-50 and you could pull it off, that's a decision you have to make in a split-second. I'll ride the race I see in front of me and hope for the best."

Colombia's Mariana Pajon won London 2012 gold and is a leading contender once more, with Australia's Caroline Buchanan another.

The competition begins with time-trial seedings runs, before three-run quarter-finals, three-run semi-finals and a one-run final, which takes place on Friday.

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