Connor Fields didn't leave anything to chance with his Olympic dreams.
The 19-year-old Fields won the U.S. men's BMX trials on Saturday in Chula Vista, Calif., earning an automatic spot on the three-man team for the London Games. He held off Corben Sharrah, Mike Day and Barry Nobles to win the final contested over a replica of the Olympic course.
"It's like a lifetime accumulation of hard work and dedication, a genuine love of what I do," Fields said. "I came in knowing that I just had to win one lap and I would be in."
He ended up winning the one lap that mattered most, edging Sharrah at the finish line.
"I've been competing against Corben since we were 8. He was the man and I've been chasing him," Fields said. "We pushed each other so hard, and arguably we are the two best riders today."
Fields will be joined by David Herman, who earned his spot on the team by leading USA Cycling's power rankings, and a discretionary pick to be announced later Saturday night.
Arielle Martin and a discretionary selection will compete in the women's race in London.
Fields has been arguably the best rider this season, becoming the first to win three straight World Cup finals from the end of last year through the beginning of this year.
The ultra-confident Fields had been leading the power rankings until a disappointing result at last month's world championships. That gave Herman the first spot on the Olympic team and left Fields to contest the trials, even though he assumed that he would make the team anyway.
"It was an advantage knowing that I was a shoe-in for the coaches' selection, and I even considered not racing this race and just rolling out," he said, "but I thought about it for a few days. That's not who I am. I'm a race driver and enjoy it, and it was an advantage not having the pressure the other guys had. I was able to relax up there and didn't need to win this to go."
That almost cavalier attitude stands in stark contrast to where Fields was 18 months ago.
He had achieved tremendous success as a junior, making three podiums at major events and showing signs of future stardom. But his right knee had been causing pain, and reached the point where he could no longer ride without feeling as though his kneecap was grinding against bone.
He was diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome, which is a relatively common condition among athletes. Cartilage in the knee thins and softens, creating painful rubbing in the joint.
Fields elected to have surgery in March 2011 called a lateral release, which alleviated some of the pain but also knocked him off the track until midway through last season.
Once he got back on the track, he got up to speed in a hurry.
First came in the strong results at the end of last season, including a World Cup victory over the course in Chula Vista, and then two more wins to start this season. That string of success, along with a couple of other impressive showings this spring, stamped Fields as one of a handful of riders who are considered the Olympic favorites.
Of course, he had to qualify for the Olympics first.
Fields rode well during the opening series of heat races Saturday just outside of San Diego, which whittled the field of eight riders down to four. When the gate dropped for the final, Fields went straight to the front and made sure to wrap up his spot in London.
"I was relaxed all day, having a good time," Fields said. "We have been racing the top riders the last four years and we raced them two weeks ago at the world championships, and three weeks before that in Holland. We know what we are getting into."