GB BMX DOMINANCE: Worthington wins gold, bronze for Brooks
Great Britain’s BMX brilliance continued on Sunday with two more medals as Charlotte Worthington made history twice over to become the first Olympic women’s freestyle champion.
The 25-year-old was the first woman to land a 360 backflip in competition, part of a breathtaking routine that earned a mark of 97.50 and gold in a discipline making its Olympic debut.
Moments later there were more celebrations as Declan Brooks earned bronze in a men’s competition won by Australian Logan Martin.
Coming on the back of gold and silver for Beth Shriever and Kye Whyte in the BMX racing, it capped a huge week for British Cycling at the Ariake Urban Sports Park – taking four medals, two of them gold, from four events – before attention switches to the velodrome in Izu on Monday.
Worthington had hinted she was working on something special at Adrenaline Alley, the huge BMX complex in Corby where the team trains, but few knew it was the ground-breaking 360 until Sunday’s final.
“It was definitely a gamble and it’s amazing when gambles pay off,” she said. “I’ve probably been working on it a few months. I keep my cards close to my chest because it definitely pays off in these situations.”
The Mancunian had never attempted the trick on a wooden surface before this week. But having hit it three times during training in Japan, her first attempt in competition ended in a heavy crash in the first run.
“I was probably a little bit giddy,” she said. “I rushed it.”
But the world number three had no hesitation in getting back up and trying again.
“I think it’s been gold medal or nothing this whole journey,” she said. “I think as soon as we set the goal of gold medal, it was go big or go home.
“I’ve learned that if you gamble and you give yourself that chance, it’s going to pay off better and going to feel better than if you hold off and think what could have been.”
American Hannah Roberts had set the pace with an intimidating 96.10 in the first run but, needing to respond to Worthington’s brilliance, the 19-year-old three-time world champion slipped a pedal at the start of her second run and settled for silver.
Brooks was at the centre of huge celebrations in the Great Britain camp but had to quickly collect himself in order to compete.
“Obviously when she got that gold medal I went crazy,” the 25-year-old said. “But then I got back in my zone and focused on my riding.”
In June, Brooks almost cost himself a place at these Games when he knocked himself unconscious attempting a double backflip at the world championships in Montpellier, but he made the move the centrepiece of a routine in Tokyo which earned a score of 90.80 and bronze.
“(The crash) was always just sitting at the back of my head,” he said. “That’s why I put it right at the start, I wanted to get it out of the way and I just made that landing perfect.”
Brooks sat in provisional second until the veteran Daniel Dhers, 36, posted a 92.05 for Venezuela.
Neither man could match Logan Martin, the Australian who boasts a full-size BMX track in his backyard, as his physics-defying run earned a score of 93.30 and gold without him even needing to complete his second run.
British Cycling had needed to reallocate UK Sport money to help fund the women’s BMX programmes during this Olympic cycling, and though there is money in place for Paris, performance director Stephen Park said there were still “hard choices” ahead with only limited sums available.
The hope is, however, that the events of the past few days will elevate both disciplines going forward.
Certainly Worthington, who only started competing in 2016, has no plans to return to the kitchens where she worked as a chef in Manchester until starting this journey.
She said: “I bloody hope not!”
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