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With Olympic gold already in his back pocket, BMX freestyler Logan Martin had a final trick up his sleeve for the small crowd of spectators at Tokyo’s Ariake Urban Park.

In the opening seconds of his second run, Martin launched off the central tabletop ramp, threw his bike forward and flipped it on its axis, his body lingering horizontally in the air, momentarily defying gravity.

The audience collectively held their breath and an age seemed to pass between the moment Martin let go of his bike and when he reconnected with the handlebars to land on the other side of the ramp. It was the defining trick of a gold-medal performance by the Australian in BMX freestyle’s debut at the Olympics.

This was Martin’s victory lap — his first run of the day was already good enough to earn him the gold medal — but it also felt like a victory lap for the sport as whole, with the men’s and women’s finals launching BMX freestyle into the Olympic spotlight with aerobatic grace and daredevilry.

“I’m stoked to be here representing freestyle BMX,” Martin said after the event. “I think we’ve shown the world how much camaraderie we have in this sport. We’re all mates off the course, but on it we’re prepared to do battle. I think it gives the Olympics a freshen up.”

The Australian competitor will have to complete two weeks in quarantine on his return home but said it would be made “that much sweeter with a gold medal hanging round my neck.”

Japan's Rim Nakamura competes in the men's BMX freestyle final. | AFP-JIJI
Japan’s Rim Nakamura competes in the men’s BMX freestyle final. | AFP-JIJI

Venezuelan silver medalist Daniel Dhers, who at 36 was the oldest competitor in the event, was also blown away by Martin’s trick.

“You know this generation took the sport where my generation left off and just kept pushing. I never in my life imagined they’d be able to do this. Logan, doing this spiderman, bike throw thing, you know that’s insane. I never thought that was even possible.”

Britain’s Declan Brooks took bronze.

In the women’s finals, Britain’s Charlotte Worthington landed the first ever backflip 360 in a women’s competition, snatching gold out of the hands of American Hannah Roberts, whose dominant first run had until that moment looked unbeatable. Switzerland’s Nikita Ducarroz took bronze.

Worthington, who had failed to land the trick on her first run, knew she had to pull it off if she was to beat Roberts. “After trying the first one, even though I fell, I was super proud to have done it.

“It was probably the biggest goal of coming to these games to do it. I just had to have faith in it being ingrained in my body, the amount of work we’ve put into it. So going out there the second time, I was ready to give it all again. And once I landed it, I knew it was on.”

Gold medalist Charlotte Worthington of Britain takes a bite of her gold medal from the women's BMX freestyle event. | REUTERS
Gold medalist Charlotte Worthington of Britain takes a bite of her gold medal from the women’s BMX freestyle event. | REUTERS

Another highlight of the competition was the use of the “Athlete Moment” feature, introduced at the Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19. Athlete Moment allows competitors to connect with their friends and families back home via video chat after completing their runs.

“Coming out here and not having friends and family, to see them on the screen immediately after the run was definitely very emotional,” said Ducarroz. “As soon as I saw my mum and the rest of the family, I couldn’t quite hold the tears back, but it was really special to have them there with us.”

The BMX freestyle took place on a purpose-built course at Ariake Urban Sports Park in Odaiba, with each rider given two 60-second runs to perform their best tricks, scored on difficulty, originality, execution, height and creativity. Only the best individual run contributed to the riders’ individual scores.

Japan’s hopefuls put on a show but came up short of the podium. Rim Nakamura ended 5th in the men’s after crashing on his first run and Minato Oike finished 7th in the women’s, also crashing on her first run of the day.

Japan's Rim Nakamura competes in the men's BMX freestyle final. | AFP-JIJI
Japan’s Rim Nakamura competes in the men’s BMX freestyle final. | AFP-JIJI

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