BMX freestyle star Hannah Roberts reminded the world she is still the Olympic gold medal favorite for her event’s debut this summer by winning the world title at the 2021 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships on Monday.
Roberts picked up right where she left off in her first international competition in 19 months. Due to the pandemic, the last competition was the 2019 World Championships, which she also won. Roberts now holds three of the event’s four UCI world titles to be awarded; she took bronze in 2018.
“I wanted to come out and put down a solid run, and I’m glad that I did that,” she said in a video posted to the UCI BMX Freestyle Twitter. “I’m glad it got me the rainbow jersey back. I’m definitely excited heading into this year as the world champion. Hopefully there’s more events, and I’m super stoked.”
Roberts’ journey to BMX fame began after she saw the discipline on TV at 8 years old. She then fractured her T4 vertebra at 10 from a fall off a 6-foot ramp. In a back brace for a month, she was unsure if her love for the sport would return.
“Once back on the bike I knew this was where I wanted to be,” she told USA Cycling in a 2018 Q&A.
The Buchanan, Michigan, native qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in February 2020 before the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. She could become the first teenage woman from any country to earn an Olympic cycling title in August; Roberts will turn 20 two days after the Closing Ceremony.
Roberts posted a score of 91.9 in her first of two runs in the world championship final in Montpellier, France. Nikita Ducarroz of Switzerland was second with 90.3 for her first world medal, while Great Britain’s Charlotte Worthington took bronze, just as she had in 2019, with a second-run score of 88.9.
Three more Americans immediately followed with Perris Benegas in fourth (85.8), Chelsea Wolfe in fifth (80) and Angie Marino sixth (78.1).
Benegas, who turns 26 the day before the Opening Ceremony, has also qualified for Tokyo and could put two U.S. women on the Olympic podium. She has consistently been a top performer the past few seasons, winning the 2018 World title and medaling at all three World Cups held in 2019.
Nine men and nine women will compete in the inaugural Olympic BMX freestyle contest, with the U.S. as the only nation sending two women. Riders compete for points in difficulty, originality, execution and overall flow on ramps and obstacles in the same venue as skateboarders.
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