Brave Nhlapo relishes spot

South African BMX star Sifiso Nhlapo spent Saturday night celebrating his victory in Round 11 of the European Champs and then spent Sunday night in a German hospital following a serious crash during Round 12 on Sunday.

South African BMX star Sifiso Nhlapo spent Saturday night celebrating his victory in Round 11 of the European Champs and then spent Sunday night in a German hospital following a serious crash during Round 12 on Sunday.

Once he'd woken from being comatose for four hours on Sunday night and given the all clear by doctors, Nhlapo was able to appreciate his second place overall in the 2008 European Championships, the most competitive international BMX series in the world.

Latvia's Maris Strombergs, Europe's current No 1, who is widely regarded as one of the favourites for an Olympic medal in Beijing in August, won the European Champs title, but it was the 20-year-old South African who almost upstaged the Latvian's quest for the coveted continental championship crown.

On Saturday, Nhlapo was on fire, blazing his way through the qualification rounds to the final where he lined up against many of Europe's biggest stars, including Strombergs.

Clad in his characteristic MTN-yellow strip, Nhlapo burst out of the starting gate and into the lead at the first jump. He then shot out of the first turn with a bike-length lead that he held throughout to claim his third win of the 2008 European Champs Series.

A perfect run through to a final podium place on Sunday could have seen Nhlapo challenging Strombergs for the championship, but a crash in the quarterfinal ended Nhlapo's series prematurely.

Two riders briefly clashed and bumped Nhlapo over the lip of a right-hand berm. His fall was relatively unspectacular, but he landed on a metal table off the track, which rendered him unconscious and had medics rushing him to hospital.

He regained consciousness four hours later and showed no signs of injury or illness and was discharged on Monday morning. - Sapa

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