Tokyo Olympics: Hannah Roberts to Justin Dowell, the best BMX freestylers at the Games
In 2017, the International Olympic Committee announced the inclusion of BMX Freestyle Park at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The competition, as per the Union Cycliste Internationale -- the world governing body for sports cycling that oversees international competitive cycling events -- takes place on ramps with big transitions and large obstacles.
Competitors perform figures throughout the course, with judges awarding points for difficulty, originality, style, and execution. Each rider completes two one-minute runs, both of which count towards their final score.
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As per the Olympics official website, Bicycle Motocross (BMX) Freestyle developed as a separate discipline from BMX Racing following its start in the 1960s in California. From 1980 until 1987, BMX Freestyle increased in popularity. The discipline’s founding governing body was first called the Amateur Skate Park Association (ASPA) in 1982, and then a couple of years after, it changed to the American Freestyle Association (AFA). Eventually, the discipline became governed by the UCI.
The BMX Freestyle competitions will take place on Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, August 1. On the first day, at the Aomi Urban Sports Park, the men’s freestyle park seeding and women’s freestyle park seeding will take place. The following day will see the finals for both.
The favorites for BMX Freestyle Park
Roberts, 19, will make her Olympic debut in Tokyo in the new BMX Freestyle category, and she is a strong contender for the gold medal in the newly-minted Olympic competition. The Michigan native is the cousin of professional BMX rider Brett Banasiewicz. Since 2019, Roberts has three world cup titles, three world championships, and a Pan American Games gold medal. In 2018, she won bronze at UCI.
A native of Corona, California, Sandoval started riding his bike in the skatepark every day after school as a kid, and reportedly, one day a few older riders taught him how to do tricks. What happened in the years to come is history - he is as strong a US contender for a BMX Freestyle gold medal as any. A third-generation Hispanic American, in 2014, he earned his first X Games medal, a bronze, at BMX Park in Austin, Texas. He followed that up the next year with even more success, landing his first X Games gold medal in 2015.
The 25-year-old started in Freestyle BMX while growing up in Reno, Nevada. In 2018, she won the gold medal in BMX freestyle park at the UCI Urban Cycling World Championships in Chengdu, China, with two other American women, Angie Marino and Hannah Roberts, taking second and third.
The 21-year-old native of Virginia Beach is known for his signature trick - the “Twix”. It’s a move that mixes a tailwhip and a bar at the same time, and Dowell is reportedly the only rider who does this trick in competitions. In 2018, Dowell won his first World Championships. In 2019, he scored a bronze medal at the Pan American Games.