(CNN) -- Frenchwoman Anne-Caroline Chausson held her nerve in a dramatic, crash-marred final to win the inaugural women's BMX gold medal on Friday.
Favorite Shanaze Reade crashes out behind winner Anne-Caroline Chausson in the women's BMX final.
Compatriot Laetitia le Corguille finished second to take the silver with American Jill Kintner taking the bronze.
Briton Shanaze Reade was in silver medal position on the final bend but the 19-year-old double world champion clipped Chausson's back wheel and crashed out of the race.
It was the last competitive race for the 30-year-old Chausson, a multiple world champion in mountain bike, who came back to her first love of BMX two years ago after it was included on the Olympic program.
"It's been a long two years of hard work, but this is definitely my last race," said Chausson, who stopped BMX when she was 13 years old to take up mountain biking.
"To finish as Olympic champion, having applied all the things we've worked on in training for this over the past two years is just amazing."
Chausson and Reade broke clear of the field going into the final bend, with the Frenchwoman pulling slightly in front of her 19-year-old rival.
But disaster struck for Reade when her front wheel appeared to clip the back wheel of Chausson, and she came crashing down. It was her third crash in two days of racing, and left her with a hand injury.
"She must have taken the bend too tight, and then I felt her clipping my back wheel," said Chausson, who had been unaware she was in a duel for the gold medal.
It was also Reade's first defeat in a final since she was 16, but she has promised to come back to fight for gold at London in 2012. "I guess they say you learn the hard way, and today I've learned the hard way," said Reade. "I am hurting. I think I broke my hand as well."
Meanwhile, Maris Strombergs of Latvia kept his nerve in the face of a two-pronged American challenge to win gold in the men's BMX final.
The silver medal went to Mike Day with the bronze to his fellow-American Donny Robinson.
Strombergs staked his claim for gold when he sailed through qualifying and won all three of his semifinal runs to secure his place in the final.
After the first bend and first jumps took an early toll on the field, Strombergs took the lead at the halfway point before the crucial big jump leading into the penultimate straight.
It was there that Jared Graves of Australia, sitting just behind the Latvian, saw his chances bite the dust when he was brought down by the flying bike of crashing South African Sifiso Nhlapo.
Strombergs, who has been racing BMX bikes for 16 years, then stretched his advantage heading into the final bend and was never really challenged by Day or Robinson. "I really didn't have a gameplan," said Strombergs, who won the world title earlier this year. "I just raced my race and it came out for the best."