UCI Cycling World Championships: the search for BMX Freestyle perfection

Reigning UCI BMX Freestyle Park UCI World Champions Hannah Roberts (USA) and Rim Nakamura (JPN) will attempt to defend their titles at the upcoming UCI Cycling World Championships taking place in Glasgow and across Scotland.

Less than three weeks out from their competition on a new park built specifically for the event at Glasgow Green, we caught up with Rim Nakamura to hear about his plan of attack.

Has your life changed much since you won the BMX Freestyle Park at the UCI Urban Cycling World Championships in Abu Dhabi?

Rim Nakamura (RN): Nothing has changed. But becoming UCI World Champion was one of my goals. I’m so stoked that I got it done in the UAE. I gained confidence from it so I’m looking forward to the next Olympic Games in Paris.

How good does it feel, having your own park to ride?

RN: It feels insane! A few years ago, I had to go abroad to practice but now I can get great riding done near my house. I still can’t believe it.

How often do you ride the park when you’re not traveling?

RN: Six days a week. Do you prefer riding with your friends or do you also send it when you ride by yourself?

RN: Riding with friends is so much more fun but when I ride by myself I can focus on practice only. I like both.

Do you feel pressure on your shoulders at the big events like the UCI World Cups, UCI World Championships or the Olympic Games?

RN: Just a little bit. I’ve never won a big comp in Japan. I feel more relaxed competing at international events. I’m really excited to show my riding to the crowd in Scotland

How does it feel living your life as a professional rider traveling the world?

RN: When I was a child, I watched so many pro riders. I’m so grateful to have become a pro rider now. So next I would like to inspire another dream.

What are the three most important things about BMX Freestyle Park for you?

RN: To enjoy riding with my friends, land world-first tricks, and win competitions.

Besides riding the BMX Freestyle Park competition, what else do you want to see or do in Scotland?:

My good friend will compete in BMX Racing. I can’t wait to watch it.

The challenge for Hannah Roberts…

In Women’s BMX Freestyle Park, Hannah Roberts has been on top for many years but has seen strong competition come in from China, especially this year. And not just one rider, there are six Chinese riders who could land on the podium at every event now.

Hannah started riding BMX at age 8 and entered her first competition only 3 weeks later. She had seen it on TV and knew instantly that BMX Freestyle was what she wanted to do as the possibilities to do tricks on a bike were endless. The way riders treated each other at events was also something that attracted Hannah to BMX Freestyle. At her first beginner comp she performed poorly but liked it so much that she kept going. She started to like the pressure of competing.

At 21 years old, Hannah has more event experience than most, and that’s something she will be able to use at the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships. Her four UCI World titles (China in 2017 and 2019, France in 2021, UAE in 2022) and a silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games confirm that she belongs right at the top of the sport! Flairs, tailwhips, backflips, 360s, barspins, no-handers… all tricks that helped her get the gold at many events, but these days even more is needed. Combinations of tricks, doubles or maybe even triples are what it takes to win.

The beauty of BMX Freestyle Park is that it’s anyone’s game. When the 12 riders enter that final phase, it’s all or nothing. Two runs each of 60 seconds is what each rider will get to impress the judges with their best possible riding. One of those two runs is a “throwaway” but one score will stay on the leaderboard. The search for perfection is on, and that’s just what Rim and Hannah are chasing.