The risk was immense and the fall was brutal.
Charlotte Worthington attempted a feat never before attempted in women’s BMX freestyle competition—a 360-degree backward loop-the-loop she’d practiced just three times before on this wooden Olympic surface.
She scurried a fraction of it—”I was probably a little dizzy and straining a little too early,” she said in the aftermath—and ended up clipping the edge of the bank where she landed and fell off her bike.
Charlotte Worthington took gold in women’s freestyle BMX with the first-ever 360 backflip
Worthington celebrates after hitting a monster score of 97.50 with a sensational second run. achieved
Worthington is pictured with her gold medal at the ceremony after the women’s event
That seemed to be the end of an Olympic dream for the 25-year-old, who cooked fajitas in a Mexican restaurant in Manchester four years ago.
But on her second attempt, she threw herself into the somersault again and took gold in a final where the best of two scores counted. Teammate Declan Brooks then took bronze in a highly competitive men’s event.
“There was no way I wouldn’t try that trick a second time. I was all there,’ Worthington thought. “Once we set our goal for gold, it was ‘go big or go home’.”
The ‘360 backflip’ was just one part of a routine of flawless poise, athleticism and artistry that took Worthington to a score of 97.50, surpassing American teenage prodigy Hannah Roberts, who jubilantly threw down her bike after a seemingly untouchable routine. in the first round.
The vocabulary of this new sport may be new – the ‘can-can’, ‘leg plant’ and ‘one-handed table top’ are all there – but it was a fascinating feature of an Olympic Games looking to increase its appeal.
Worthington, who started her routine at the highest point on the trail, crashed onto a bicycle in a forward roll. But the back flip by a full revolution — BMX’s Yurchenko double pike vault — was the big one.
Worthington missed her first try on the 360 but recovered to get back on her bike
The Briton defeated the acclaimed American rider Hannah Roberts, who took the silver medal
Worthington had only tested it on foam and resin at British Cycling’s BMX base, known as ‘Adrenalin Alley’, in Corby, Northamptonshire. Applying it to rigid wood, still quite a challenge, is something she has only done here.
“It took me a few months,” Worthington said, her gold medal around her neck. “I keep my cards close to my chest, it pays off in situations like this.
“I’ve learned that if you gamble, it works out better than if you wait and think about what could have been.”
Her arm ached as she fell. In crisis points between runs, coach Jamie Bestwick reminded her of the team’s mantra: ‘Breathe’.
The unyielding heat of this venue didn’t help, with some of the hottest temperatures at the Games.
Team GB had prepared by setting Adrenalin Alley’s heating to 25°C, but they were unable to replicate Tokyo’s blazing sun reflected off the track’s bright surface.
Worthington and her team celebrate after her gold medal in the competition is confirmed
But Worthington has given four years of her life to get here since she quit her job at the Mexican restaurant Beagle in Chorlton, south Manchester.
In her days as a chef, riding BMX bikes and scooters was a hobby and the idea that they were an Olympic sport was not even remotely possible.
There is no apparent sports gene in Worthington’s family. Her father John is a gardener, mother Sarah is a teacher.
She has taken advantage of British Cycling’s identification of BMX and mountain biking as new avenues to success, as their longstanding dominance in the cycling track is under threat.
UK Sport had initially refused funding for the men’s mountain bike and women’s BMX for this cycle.
When British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park successfully lobbied for a reassignment to BMX, it was envisaged that medals could flow at the 2024 Paris Olympics. But Great Britain immediately took gold medals in three of the new cycling disciplines, with four medals in BMX.
The Briton praised rival Roberts before moving to the Ariake Urban Sports Park to cheer on fellow Briton Declan Brooks in the men’s event
Brooks’ bronze was equally remarkable. He was knocked unconscious when he tried his biggest trick at the World Championships in Montpellier in June.
“It’s always just in the back of my head, which is why I put it at the beginning of my run because I wanted it out of the way,” Brooks said.
His decision to hide his biggest combination of routines meant he scored modestly in the heat and was an early rider in the final. He had to wait 10 minutes to make sure bronze was his. Australia’s Logan Martin and Venezuelan Daniel Dhers took gold and silver.
“For kids at home, you just have to get a bike and have fun with it,” added the 25-year-old, whose efforts to make ends meet include working as a stunt rider for the film Mary Poppins Returns. .
As for Worthington, some wondered if this meant her days making fajitas in the Beagle were now over. “I fucking hope so!” she said.