Logan Martin, Australia's first Olympic men's BMX Freestyle representative, celebrates his victory in the UCI BMX Freestyle World Championships in June. Image: AOC/UCI BMX Freestyle

There are four BMX events at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

BMX racing made its first Olympic appearance at Beijing 2008 and has featured at every games since.

It’s one of the most exciting events to watch due to the fast-paced nature of each race, where riders begin at the top of an eight-metre hill and reach speeds of up to 60km/h across the 400-metre course.

Unlike a traditional road or track cycling event, riders in BMX races are permitted and encouraged to impede one another in order to maintain or try and gain a lead within a race.

BMX racing will be joined at Tokyo 2020 alongside a new format of BMX cycling – BMX Freestyle. Where BMX racing focuses on speed and tactics to prevent other riders from overtaking, BMX freestyle is a spectacle for the tricks and creative manoeuvres riders perform.

BMX Racing – How Will it Work?

Rio 2016 saw 32 riders compete in the men’s and 16 in the women’s BMX racing, with individual time trials used to seed the riders into their respective heats.

Individual time trials won’t be a feature of the BMX racing schedule at Tokyo 2020, and 24 riders in both the men’s and women’s events will be placed in four separate heats with six riders in each.

Similarly to Rio 2016, however, the heats and finals will be played across three runs, where riders’ times and placings are factored into their final score.

For example, the USA’s Connor Fields, who won gold in the men’s event in 2016, finished first, fourth and third in the three races in his heat, resulting in a score of eight points, while in the semi-final he finished second, second and sixth, to leave him with a score of ten.

A lower score in a heat results in a higher placing, as seen with Colombia’s Mariana Pajon who came first in all three of her races in the women’s semi-final, finishing with a score of three points and qualifying as the first in her heat.

The final of each event will be a singular run, where the rider who crosses the line first will be the winner.

BMX Freestyle – How Will it Work?

The BMX freestyle event will operate on a much smaller scale than the BMX racing, with just nine riders in each of the men’s and women’s events.

The competition will be broken into two rounds, with a round of heats to determine the finals. Riders will compete in two 60-second runs in each round, and are scored for each run.

Similar to sports such as surfing and skateboarding, riders are scored based on the tricks and manoeuvres they perform, which factors in the difficulty, originality and creativity of the moves, as well as the execution of these tricks and the height they gain when jumping.

The final score a rider receives is the average score of their two runs, which then determines where riders rank in the competition.

Tactically, riders often choose to vary their tricks and manoeuvres between their two runs, keeping one run conservative and going all-out in the other run to aim to maximise points.

Riders who ride last also have a greater advantage than others as they are able to adapt their tricks to those of the riders who go before them. For this reason, the highest-scoring riders in the first round will be given this competitive advantage.

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Medal Contenders

Rio 2016 saw Colombia’s Mariana Pajon win her second consecutive gold medal in Olympic BMX racing, with the USA’s Alise Willoughby (née Post) and Venezuela’s Stefany Hernandez claiming silver and bronze respectively.

Pajon will be defending and competing for her third consecutive Olympic gold at Tokyo, competing again for the title. Two-time world gold medallist Willoughby (married to Aussie BMX rider Sam Willoughby) and 2018 world championship winner, the Netherlands’ Laura Smulders, are two more womens’ riders to watch.

The USA’s Connor Fields won gold at Rio, and will also be aiming to claim another gold at Tokyo, and will be contested again by 2016 bronze medallist, Colombia’s Carlos Ramirez.

Rio silver medallist Jelle van Gorkom of the Netherlands will not be competing at Tokyo 2020 however the Netherlands have a strong representation within the BMX racing event. This includes the 2019 world champion and runner up Twan van Gendt and Niek Kimmann, both of whom are chances to claim Gold in the men’s BMX racing at Tokyo.

Australia boasts a heavy medal chance in the men’s BMX freestyle – 2021 BMX freestyle world championship winner Logan Martin. As well as this recent success, Martin is also a two-time gold medallist in the X Games BMX Park competition, so will be among the top contenders in the overall competition.

Venezuela’s Daniel Dhers has won five X Games gold medals and will also be among the top medal contenders for the men’s event, while Japan’s representative Rim Nakamura could also be a chance for gold.

Nakamura won the 2019 BMX Freestyle Park World Cup at the age of just 17 and will be another name to watch in the men’s event, as he aims to claim gold in front of a home audience.

The women’s BMX freestyle also features an up-and-coming rider in 19-year-old Hannah Roberts. She has won multiple world titles already, including 2017, 2019 and 2021 BMX Freestyle Park World Cups. With these recent titles under her belt, expect Roberts to be the favourite for gold in the women’s event.

2018 world title winner Perris Benegas is the other American who has qualified, while world bronze medallist, the UK’s Charlotte Worthington, and 2018 Youth Olympic gold medallist Lara Lessmann of Germany are some other names to watch.

Australia’s Entries

Logan Martin in the men’s Freestyle event looms as Australia’s best BMX medal chance, having won the 2021 BMX Freestyle world championship at the beginning of June.

Australia’s entry in the women’s BMX Freestyle event, Natalya Diehm, has won three consecutive national titles and finished sixth in the 2019 Urban World Championships. She overcame a fourth knee reconstruction in 2018 but has shown resolve and determination since, and will be Australia’s first women’s Olympic BMX Freestyle representative.

The sole men’s representative Australia in the BMX Racing event, Anthony Dean, will feature at his second games in Tokyo, having been the highest-ranked rider in the heats before finishing eighth overall in the event at Rio 2016. Dean also finished sixth at the 2019 BMX World Championships and will travel to Tokyo as the second-most experienced member of Australia’s BMX squad.

Representing Australia in the women’s BMX racing event, Lauren Reynolds will be at her third games in Tokyo. She reached the semi-finals at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 and finished ninth overall in the 2019 World Championship. Reynolds recorded two top-six finishes at the 2020 BMX Supercross World Cup, qualifying her for Tokyo 2020.

Alongside Reynolds will be Olympic debutant Saya Sakakibara, who is just 21 years of age. She finished second and fourth in the two rounds of the 2020 BMX Supercross World Cup and achieved a seventh-place finish at the 2019 World Championships. Sakakibara also won gold in the 2019 Oceania BMX Championships.

Australia’s Olympic BMX Team

AthleteEventOlympic Experience
Natalya DiehmBMX FreestyleDebut
Logan MartinBMX FreestyleDebut
Anthony DeanBMX Racing2nd Games (Rio 2016)
Lauren ReynoldsBMX Racing3rd games (London 2012; Rio 2016)
Saya SakakibaraBMX RacingDebut

The men’s and women’s BMX racing events will take place on July 29 and 30, with the BMX freestyle events to follow on July 31 and August 1. All events will be held at the Ariake Urban Sports Park.

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