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After two decades of success competing across the various mountain bike disciplines, Anne-Caroline Chausson switched tack to become the first ever Olympic women’s BMX champion at Beijing 2008.
Anne-Caroline Chausson’s first taste of BMX came at the age of six, when her older brothers started teaching her tricks at the bike park in their home region of Burgundy. She made lightning progress, and in 1987, claimed her first world title in the U10s. That was followed by consecutive triumphs in the Junior World Championships in 1992 and 1993. By that stage, she was 16, and keen to try her hand at something different switched to MTB downhill. It was, literally, a steep learning curve, with a lot of wipeouts along the way, but, again, she mastered this spectacular discipline within a remarkably short time. Within a year she took the junior world title on the slopes of Métabief in the Jura Mountains of France, and followed up with two further victories in 1994 and 1995.
After stepping up to the Elite category, Chausson soon established herself as the world number one, going on to win nine consecutive world titles between 1996 and 2005. She also made a foray into the dual-slalom event, winning the world crown in 2000 and 2001, and then the 4-cross, in which she claimed the world championship titles in 2002 and 2003. Always eager for a new challenge, back in 1997, Chausson took to the slopes of Les Arcs ski resort (FRA) on her mountain bike, reaching an incredible 187.99km to set new women’s world speed record.
On 29 June 2003, the IOC announced its decision to include BMX in the official programme for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Quick to seize on the opportunity, Anne-Caro dusted down her BMX and began preparing for the greatest challenge of her career. She trained intensively to bring her skills up to the required standard, and in the months before the Games in 2008 she finished runner-up in both the European and World BMX Championships.
The inaugural Olympic women’s BMX competition took place at the new purpose-built circuit in Laoshan. Keen to avoid ending up in the lane next to hot favourite Shanaze Reade (GBR) in the final, Chausson “played it tactical” in her semi-final, making a cagey start out the gate to avoid recording the fastest time. It was a tactic that worked a dream. In the gold medal race on 22 August 2008, the Frenchwoman, kitted out all in blue, stormed out of the gate to take an early lead, and measuring each of her jumps to perfection, crossed the finish line in first place. Reade, meanwhile, wiped out, opening the door to a French one-two, as Laetitia Le Corguillé finished behind Chausson to claim silver. For Chausson, the victory represented a poignant career high. After all, it was on a BMX that she launched her meteoric ride to the top, and, now, back on a BMX in Beijing, she was, for the first time, able to enjoy the truly global recognition her remarkable talents deserved. In her own words: “This is the greatest title of my career. It means recognition, it’s my crowning glory. This medal was not won in the shadows.”