Hannah Roberts Wins Silver In Debut of BMX Freestyle in Tokyo
by Lisa Costantini
Hannah Roberts poses for a photo with her medal after the BMX freestyle women's park final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.
TOKYO — To be a BMX Freestyle rider, you have to be in total control. But in the Olympic debut of the sport, when Great Britain’s Charlotte Worthington dropped the first-ever 360 backflip in women’s competition on her second run, she took control of the gold medal spot.
Until that moment, the reigning world champ, Team USA’s Hannah Roberts, was in the leader spot with a score of 96.10. But in her final run — and as the last rider left to compete — her foot touched the ground at the end of a trick. Knowing she would be unable to beat Worthington’s score of 97.50, she stopped her run short.
As if she knew what was coming, the 19-year-old posted to her social media before the finals at Ariake Urban Sports Park:
“No matter the outcome today, this experience has been incredible. It’s been eye-opening and I am so honored to be a part of it,” she said. “No matter what place I get, or where I end up, I am going to have so much fun. I have already had so much fun. I love riding my bike. That’s all that matters.”
But it hasn’t always been fun for the new silver medalist.
After the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the Michigan native — who has been competing since she was 12 — said she was forcing herself to ride every day, whether she wanted to or not.
“That took so much out of me because it just wasn’t fun anymore,” she said. She got to the point where she felt like, “if I’m not having fun doing what I’m doing, then there’s no point.”
As a result of those feelings she said she was forced to shift her focus to her mental health.
“Mental health is everything,” she said. “Especially in our sport. It’s what causes us not to get hurt. If we’re not in the right headspace, it’s not going to be a good day.”
Her teammate Nick Bruce knows all too well. After injuring his shoulder during a practice run days earlier in Tokyo, he was unable to rehab his shoulder in time to put down a proper finals run. But in an attempt to put down something — and favoring his left shoulder — he stopped his run with 15 seconds still on the clock.
Coming into Tokyo, Team USA was the top-ranked nation in both the men’s and women’s competitions, making the U.S. the only country to have two representatives in the sport of BMX Freestyle, for a total of four.
Unfortunately the rest of the team finished off the podium. Perris Benegas, the 2018 world champion, just missed a medal with her score of 88.50, finishing in fourth.
For her, the whole thing has been “a dream come true. I am so excited. I never thought [BMX freestyle in the Olympics] was going to be a possibility as a kid, because it was never an option. And now that it is, I found out about it and dove head in,” she said.
Nikita Ducarroz of Switzerland won the bronze medal with a first run score of 89.20 points.
On the men’s side in the first-ever Olympic BMX freestyle competition, Bruce was unable to get out of the bottom spot with his first score of a 24.60 and opted to sit out his second run. And 21-year-old Justin Dowell went down on his second run and finished just above his teammate, with a score of 44.60 and an eighth place.
Australia’s reigning men’s world champion Logan Martin took the gold with a score of 93.30, Daniel Dhers of Venezuela took silver and Great Britain’s Declan Brooks rounded out the podium with a score of 90.80.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.
Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2011.