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Connor Fields, first U.S. Olympic BMX champion, retires

Connor Fields

Aug 19, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Connor Fields (USA) wins gold in men’s competition in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic BMX Centre. Mandatory Credit: Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Fields, who in 2016 became the first American to win an Olympic BMX title, announced his retirement a little more than one year after a life-threatening crash at the Tokyo Games.

“I wanted to go out on my own terms, and in a way, I still am, despite the thing that I love most nearly ending my life,” Fields said in a social media video published Thursday. “I am still here, still riding and still that same kid who loved BMX, just now for the first time in as long as I can remember, starting today, when I ride BMX, it will be for the same reason that I started back in 1999. It will be for fun.”

Fields, 29, suffered brain shearing and bleeding, a collapsed lung and a broken rib in an Olympic semifinal crash on July 30, 2021. He lay unconscious “for a very long time,” he said later, and stopped breathing at one point.

He was released from a Tokyo hospital five days after the crash and from a Utah rehab center later in August.

As he continued to recover into the autumn, Fields learned that he had shoulder ligament tears and a partially torn bicep tendon and underwent shoulder reconstruction surgery,

By late winter, he was told that he made a full cognitive recovery from the crash and that he could ease back into riding his bike. He had been off of it for eight months since the Olympics. In April, he had his final therapy session for his shoulder.

Throughout the process, Fields repeated that he did not know if he would return to competition. He was taking life day by day.

Fields, a Las Vegas area native, contemplated retirement before the Tokyo Games, notably after 2010 knee surgery and again after suffering a concussion in a 2018 crash.

“As I got older, and I watched my competitors retire and move on, it started to sink in that professional BMX racing was not going to be forever,” Fields said in the video.

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