History was made at Tokyo's Ariake Urban Sports Park on Saturday 31 July 2021: BMX Freestyle Park made it to the Olympic Games. After a long time in the planning, the first day’s seeding event became a unique moment that riders, staff and fans had been waiting for. The atmosphere matched the anticipation and so did the action!
The 18 riders had four days of practice to get used to the park, and it was time to show the runs: two per rider. With a combined total from both runs counting towards a final score it was key to deliver tricks in each run.
As the seeding phase was used to determine the starting order for the Olympic Final, with the highest scoring rider starting last, Saturday’s action became a tactical game for the nine female and nine male athletes. For those who managed to secure a spot in the grandstands, the riding was impressive from the get-go, as the women went first...
Chile’s Macarena Perez made history as the first BMX Freestyle Park rider to run at the Olympics.
Getting to ride the entire course by yourself is one of the perks of competing and this time was well spent by all. Australia's Natalya Diehm put 77.40 on the scoreboard with her first run which involved 360s and tailwhips – tricks that are becoming expected in the women’s competitions nowadays, with the increasingly high standards of the athletes.
It is incredible to see the progression over time, as demonstrated by Charlotte Worthington (GBR) who has made huge steps in training with coach Jamie Bestwick.
Tips from the former pros help the current riders to raise their level: Nikita Ducarroz, who has had lots of help from Daniel Wedemeijer, pulled the backflips, tailwhips, 360s and 540s from her trick bag. The Swiss rider qualified in third place – good for an Olympic medal if her form in the finals matches that she demonstrated in the seedings.
Team USA, led by Ryan Nyquist, made it to the top ranks at the first Olympic running of BMX Freestyle Park. Perris Benegas scored an average of 86.50 while Hannah Roberts wrapped up the first Olympic day with 87.70 after two runs (the average of 89.80 and 85.60).
“No matter what place I get or what place my teammate gets, or whoever we're competing against, I'm going to be right there to celebrate it with them. This is history, and this is a huge deal,” said Hannah Roberts.
The men sending it in seeding
The field of play at the Ariake Urban Sports Park not only looks amazing but also offers many lines and ramps of all sizes. This variety gives athletes lots of options and it's up to them to devise and deliver the most impressive runs. Unlike in seeding, where two runs are averaged, in the finals the best run of the two for each rider is what counts, so there’s no reason for them to hold anything back.
First up was Anthony Jeanjean who set the bar high for the eight men to follow. With two solid runs full of flairs in multiple spots on the course and more tailwhips than many fans could even count, the Frenchman looks good heading into the Olympic Finals.
Australian Logan Martin appears to be particularly strong; he was consistent and smooth ticking off all his hard tricks from the list, hitting a score of 90.97. Japan's hope for a medal is in the hands of Rim Nakamura who put himself into the silver slot just behind Martin with 87.67.
BMX Freestyle Park veteran Daniel Dhers (VEN) squeezed in an 85.10 thanks to his consistent riding, spinning tricks both ways, going upside down and whipping the back-end around. Irek Rizaev (ROC), Kenneth Tencio (CRC), Declan Brooks (GBR) and American Justin Dowell followed. Nick Bruce opted to cruise, hoping his shoulder will feel better in time for the final, so he can send it for the United States of America.
“My strongest rivals are Nakamura and Martin,” said Daniel Dhers after seeding.
There’s more Park action to come on Sunday 1 August with the Olympic Finals where these top class riders will really show the world what BMX Freestyle is all about.
Full results from the first day of BMX Freestyle competition.