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Worthington, Martin earn gold in BMX freestyle Olympic debut

Charlotte Worthington of Britain competes in the women's BMX freestyle final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

TOKYO (AP) -- BMX freestyle put on quite a show in its Olympic debut.

    With fans watching from a bridge outside the park, Charlotte Worthington of Britain won the inaugural women's event and Logan Martin of Australia capped a high-flying Sunday with gold at the Tokyo Games.

    Worthington, who crashed on her opening run, got it started by landing the first 360 backflip in women's competition to knock off American Hannah Roberts. The 25-year-old added a front flip on her opening run and closed with a spinning flare for a 97.5.

    Roberts, a three-time world champion at age 19, set the bar in her opening run, landing a backflip with a tailspin for a 96.1. The top seed had a chance to top the Brit, but she landed hard off an early jump and waved off the rest of her second run.

    Nikita Ducarroz of Switzerland took bronze with an 89.2 in her second run.

    Martin kept the attention of fans on the bridge and the handful of people inside Ariake Urban Sports Park, pulling off a near flawless first run for a 93.3. The 27-year-old watched as the other eight riders tried to catch him and pumped his fist from atop a landing when no one could.

    Martin went on a victory lap, flipping his bike in the air and catching it on an early jump, but waved the rest of it off after landing hard on another jump.

    Daniel Dhers of Venezuela took silver with a 92.05 on his second run and Declan Brooks of Britain had a second-run 90.8 to earn bronze.

    BMX freestyle's rim-wrecking roots were planted in the flying action-sports carnival of the X Games in the 1990s, and later in offshoots like the Dew Tour and Gravity Games.

    BMX racing, freestyle's cousin, has been in the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games. Freestyle continued soaring until it had to be included, too.

    Freestyle took a huge leap forward -- with a twist, of course -- when it came under the umbrella of the Union Cycliste International in 2016, further legitimizing the sport and giving the top riders a place to compete on a World Cup circuit.

    The first BMX freestyle championships were held in 2017 -- won by Roberts and Martin -- and the sport was added to the Olympic program later that year with surfing, sport climbing, 3-on-3 basketball, skateboarding and karate.

    BMX freestyle, also known as BMX park, certainly has the eye appeal to be a big hit with riders flipping, twisting and spinning their handlebars on a course that's like an oversized skate park.

    The vernacular is pretty rad, too, with ordinary words and phrases that mean something different in the park: superman, truck driver, toboggan.

    Roberts has dominated the sport at a young age, winning three of the first four world championships and three World Cup titles -- she won everything in 2019 -- by the time she turned 19.

    The difference between Roberts and the rest of the world: She goes bigger and lands more dynamic moves than anyone else.

    She showed it off in her first run at Ariake Urban Sports Park, landing a backflip with a bar spin, a double tailwhip and another backflip off the back wall.

    Roberts set the bar with a 96.1 in that opening run, nearly seven points more than her closest competitor.

    But the Olympic stage brought out the best in the world's top riders.

    Worthington, who crashed in her first run, pulled off the backflip 360 first, added a front flip and closed with another backflip to pass Roberts.

    Roberts had one last chance to top the Brit, but she landed hard on an early jump and waved off the rest of her second run.

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