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Connor Fields says Olympic crash ‘a little bit of bad luck’

Connor Fields has watched video of French rider Sylvain Andre’s front wheel connecting with his rear tire, causing him to fall violently to the track.

He remembers none of it.

The immediate days after the BMX crash at the Olympic Games qualifying are, at best, a blur. His first memory is seeing friends visit him in the hospital.

“It sounds crazy, but you always kind of know that there’s a chance doing what we do that this could eventually happen,” Fields said Saturday. “I had enough people around me to inform me what was going on, so it’s not like I was completely caught off guard, but it definitely wasn’t preferable or enjoyable.”

Fields, who graduated from Green Valley High School and UNLV, was the favorite at the Tokyo Olympics, having become the first American to win gold in BMX five years earlier in Rio de Janeiro.

He was well on his way to the final after the two initial qualifying runs July 30 when Andre tried to get past him in the third and final heat.

“I don’t believe that the French rider had the intention to put me on the ground,” Fields said. “But he definitely made an aggressive move and kind of took my line away and didn’t really leave me much option of anywhere to go.”

The medical staff rushed to Fields, who lay motionless on the track. They carried him by stretcher to an ambulance, where Fields was taken to St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo.

Fields suffered a brain hemorrhage and broken rib — the latter he didn’t realize until being told because it felt like a sore rib he was accustomed to experiencing — and remained hospitalized for about five days. Then he was allowed to fly home.

He has been injured in other races and notably suffered a concussion in 2018 that took some time to heal, but nothing to this extent.

Fields is back home in his Las Vegas-area home, and his memory is improving some. He will drive to Salt Lake City on Sunday to go through therapy at the University of Utah, which works in conjunction with USA Cycling. How long he stays and what kind of regimen he will follow will be discussed when Fields arrives.

“The biggest thing now is improving my memory and my sleep schedule and getting back in a normal mental routine over the next couple of months,” Fields said.

As for the future beyond that, Fields, who turns 29 next month, isn’t ready to think that far ahead.

It could involve cycling, either as a competitor or in some other fashion. Fields said he would like to remain “in high-level sports in some capacity,” but knows making that decision isn’t the highest priority at this point.

“The first step will be to heal up and be as normal as possible and live a normal lifestyle,” Fields said. “Then at that point in time, I can make a decision with the people around me if this is something I would like to continue to do or if I’ve had enough.”

Whatever factors in his decision, Fields said any concern about ending his career with that crash would not be among them.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to force yourself to end only on a good note, especially if you’re at the Olympics, World Championships, major events like that,” Fields said. “For me, I did my best, and I was prepared as I always am, and I had a little bit of bad luck. There’s nothing I could’ve done to stop the French rider from bumping into me.”

If Fields steps away, he does so with a resume that includes three appearances in the Olympics and nine in the World Championships. In addition to gold at Rio, he was seventh in the 2012 Olympics in London and winner of the 2012 and 2013 World Championships.

“I was a kid that loved to ride his bike and liked a unique sport from Las Vegas from the time I was 8 years old,” Fields said. “Was able to turn it into a career and travel the world and represent my country as well as some amazing sponsors. I have a lot to be proud of, a lot that we’ve accomplished and a lot to hang my hat on.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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