It’s been a remarkable roller-coaster of a year for Tory Nyhaug, Canada’s reigning king of BMX.
The 20-year-old Coquitlam product scored a trio of victories last weekend as the Canadian BMX Championships rolled into Abbotsford, marking another high point in an epic story of resilience and pain tolerance that would make Don Cherry proud.
Nyhaug was shaping up to be a legit medal threat at the London Olympics, rising as high as fourth in the world rankings.
But on May 13, a devastating crash during a race in the Netherlands put his Olympics in jeopardy. A ruptured spleen and a broken wrist were the net result, and he spent 11 days in the intensive care ward of a Dutch hospital.
But after surgery to remove the spleen, Nyhaug made an amazing recovery, and he was on the gate in London just over two months after the crash. While the result wasn’t what he might have hoped for – he fell short of advancing from the heats to the semifinals by a single point – simply experiencing the five-ring circus made the ordeal worthwhile.
“It was pretty traumatic,” Nyhaug told The News on Saturday, reflecting on his Olympic odyssey. “I didn’t know if I was going to get to go, but I was so happy I was able to. It was an unbelievable experience, and I want to go back in four years.
“I was pretty close to 100 per cent (in London), but definitely, the overall sharpness wasn’t there. But I did the best I could with what I had, and with any luck, I could have been through. But that’s BMX.”
In Abbotsford on the weekend, Nyhaug served notice that any rust from his injury convalescence is long gone. He defended his Canadian titles in the time trial (Friday) and the BMX race (Saturday) in the elite male division, and for good measure, he also won the final race of the Canada Cup series on Sunday to compete a hat trick of victories.
It bodes well for his chances at the UCI Supercross World Cup Finals, which runs at the Abbotsford Exhibition Park track next week (Sept. 14-15).
“I wanted to get some good laps in on this track before the World Cup, and that’s exactly what I did, so I’m happy,” Nyhaug said. “I’ve had some good training here at home now, and I’m feeling great on the track and all-around. I’m hoping for a good performance to end the season.”
The final race of the World Cup season is expected to draw riders from more than 30 countries – many of whom, like Nyhaug, competed at the Summer Olympics. Two-day general admission tickets are $30, and are available at uciworldcupbmx.com/tickets.
Abbotsford is essentially Nyhaug’s home track – he’s on site four times a week to practice, and he’s focused on turning in a solid showing.
“Besides the Olympics and the Worlds, it’s one of the biggest races of the year,” Nyhaug noted. “And there’s going to be tons of Olympians out, so hopefully people come out and watch it. It’ll be a great show.”
If his reception at the national championships was any indication, Nyhaug’s gritty performance en route to London has made him a bit of a rock star in Canadian BMX circles. On Saturday, organizers asked him to hand out the medals to podium finishers in the youth divisions, and he drew a steady stream of giddy young autograph seekers afterward.
“It’s been pretty cool,” he said with a grin. “These little kids are all coming up to me, and I was there once. I know it’s important for them, and that’s how I started. I hope that a lot of these kids stick with BMX and continue to grow in the sport.”
MILLMAN, MCCORMACK ALSO STAR AT NATIONALS
In other action at the Canadian Championships, Sabrina Millman of Cochrane, Alta. swept the elite women’s time trial and BMX race, and finished second to Merle Van Benthem of the Netherlands in the Canada Cup event. Amelia Walsh of Ayr, Ont., the third-place finisher in the Canada Cup race, won the overall series title.
In the elite men’s division, Vernon’s Connor McCormack finished second to Nyhaug in all three races, and clinched the overall title in the Canada Cup series.
James Palmer (time trial) and Brandon Reid (BMX race) won Canadian junior men’s titles, while Chelsea Kingston (time trial) and Morgan McAdam (BMX race) were the victors on the junior women’s side.
Tory Nyhaug rounds the curve at the Abbotsford track during Saturday’s Canadian Championship BMX race. (John Morrow photos)