Updated August 12, 2022 - 8:54 am
Connor Fields, an Olympic gold medalist and one of the most decorated BMX racers in the sport’s history, is retiring.
Fields, who went to Green Valley High School and UNLV, said he was considering this decision even before a serious crash at last year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“A lot of athletes don’t get a chance to make a decision,” Fields said. “They either get cut from the team and don’t come back, or they have a career-ending injury. I wanted to give myself some time and let myself make my decision instead of rushing through it. But really what it came down to was I feel satisfied with what I’ve done. I turn 30 next month, and I’m not willing to take the risks anymore.”
Fields competed in three Olympics, winning gold in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro to become the first American to accomplish that in BMX. He and Andre Agassi are believed to be the only Las Vegas-area athletes to have won gold in individual Olympic events.
He is a five-time national champion, with his most recent title occurring in 2021. In addition to making nine appearances in the World Championships, Fields won titles in 2012 and 2013.
He could have kept chasing more honors. Fields was one of the favorites to claim gold when he got hurt in Tokyo.
“I was always aware that in my sport 30 seems to be about the drop,” Fields said. “I’ve watched other athletes do it, but I never wanted to go through that period where a once-dominant athlete became kind of a mid-level athlete. It’s the evolution of not just my sport but any sport that younger athletes get bigger, faster, stronger and push out the older athletes. So I always wanted to go out on top.
“Obviously, with what happened with Tokyo, that’s not the way you want to go out, so I really wanted to make sure I was OK with it.”
The crash in Japan was devastating, not only threatening Fields’ life but also causing concerns about his long-term health. He was on his third and final heat and appeared well on his way to qualifying for the final when another cyclist tried to pass Fields, but instead sent him hard to the surface.
Fields was taken to a Tokyo hospital, suffering a brain hemorrhage, broken rib and shoulder injury. He was hospitalized for five days before being allowed to fly back to Las Vegas. Doctors cleared Fields in March of any brain issues, and he is completely healthy overall.
“Physically, I can still do it if I want to,” Fields said. “I always told myself that when I wake up in the morning and I don’t want to do it, that’s probably when it’s time to not do it.”
As for what’s next, Fields said he would be interested in anything from broadcasting — including the 2024 Olympics in Paris — to public speaking to coaching, and that his business degree from UNLV should come in especially handy.
“I actually have no idea what I want to be when I grow up,” Fields said. “But the good news is I’ve definitely set myself up in a good position.
“I got to delay the decision by 10 years, but I’ve got to figure it out now.”