Worthington tops Buchanan's Roberts in BMX freestyle Olympic debut
Tokyo — Britain’s Charlotte Worthington put on a show in BMX freestyle’s Olympic debut, leading the first 360 backflip in women’s competition to knock off American Hannah Roberts Sunday at the Tokyo Games.
Roberts, a Buchanan High School graduate and three-time world champion at age 19, set the bar in her opening run, landing a backflip with a tailspin for a 96.1.
Worthington crashed on her first run but pulled out all the stops in her second. The 25-year-old added a front flip to her 360 backflip and closed with another backflip for a 97.5.
Roberts, the top seed, had a chance to top the Brit, but she landed hard off an early jump and waved off the rest of her second run.
Nikita Ducarroz of Switzerland took bronze with an 89.2 in her second run.
BMX freestyle’s rim-wrecking roots were planted in the flying action-sports carnival of the X Games in the 1990s, and later in offshoots like the Dew Tour and Gravity Games.
BMX racing, freestyle’s cousin, has been in the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games. Freestyle continued soaring until it had to be included, too.
Freestyle took a huge leap forward – with a twist, of course – when it came under the umbrella of the Union Cycliste International in 2016, further legitimizing the sport and giving the top riders a place to compete on a World Cup circuit.
The first BMX freestyle championships were held in 2017 – won by Roberts and Logan Martin of Australia – and the sport was added to the Olympic program later that year with surfing, sport climbing, 3-on-3 basketball, skateboarding and karate.
BMX freestyle, also known as BMX park, certainly has the eye appeal to be a big hit with riders flipping, twisting and spinning their handlebars on a course that’s like an oversized skate park.
The vernacular is pretty rad, too, with ordinary words and phrases that mean something different in the park: superman, truck driver, toboggan.
Roberts has dominated the sport at a young age, winning three of the first four world championships and three World Cup titles — she won everything in 2019 — by the time she turned 19.
The difference between Roberts and the rest of the world: She goes bigger and lands more dynamic moves than anyone else.
She showed it off in her first run at Ariake Urban Sports Park, landing a backflip with a bar spin, a double tailwhip and another backflip off the back wall.
Roberts set the bar with a 96.1 in that opening run, nearly seven points more than her closest competitor.
But the Olympic stage brought out the best in the world’s top riders.
Worthington, who crashed in her first run, pulled off the backflip 360 first, added a front flip and closed with another backflip to pass Roberts.
Roberts had one last chance to top the Brit, but she landed hard on an early jump and waved off the rest of her second run.
More local Olympics
The American lineup for the 4x400 mixed relay was rather unexpected.
The color of Olympic medal, too — bronze.
Given their whirlwind of emotions — disqualification in the opening round for an exchange, appeal, late-night reinstatement into the final — any medal was cause for celebration.
The United States wound up behind gold medal-winning Poland and runner-up Dominican Republic as the mixed relay made its Olympic debut Saturday night at the Tokyo Games.
Though she didn't run in the final, East Lansing's Taylor Manson earned a medal. Manson ran for the U.S. in Round 1 of the event.
American wrestler Adeline Gray, who attended Marquette High School while training at the U.S. Olympic Education Center at NMU, won her quarterfinals match against Tunisia's Zaineb Sghaier, 8-0, via fall.
Ex-Wolverine Felix Auboeck finished seventh in the men's 1,500-meter freestyle swim event on Saturday night as USA's Bobby Finke stole the show with a dominant performance down the stretch to take gold.
Auboeck, making his second Olympics appearance, finished with a time of 15:03.47, trailing the winner Finke by 23.82 seconds. He also competed in the 400 and 800 freestyle finals, but did not medal.