At just 23 years old, Charlotte Worthington has already medalled at a number of freestyle BMX’s most coveted competitions.
Last year, Worthington became the sport’s first-ever female European champion and in December she added a bronze at the World Championships in China to her ever-growing medal collection.
“I was blown away that I managed to get bronze at the World Championships,” said Worthington.
“Last year at the World Championships I suffered a concussion in practice and wasn’t even able to compete.
“This year it felt like a big redemption to even make it to the contest so to keep my cool, keep my nerve and walk away with the third-place under such high pressure, I was ecstatic.”
Her rise to become one of the world’s best female freestyle BMX riders has led to her being tipped as one of Team GB ‘s strongest medal hopes in the Tokyo Games this summer.
“We’re definitely aiming for the top,” said Worthington.
“I know everyone is aiming for the top and there’s going to be a lot of hard work between now and then, but we’re going for gold.”
However, her quest for Olympic gold won’t be easy, with the 23-year-old touting Hannah Roberts from Team USA as one of her biggest threats. Roberts is known on the circuit to be one of the strongest riders, and Worthington is yet to get the better of her in a competition.
Freestyle BMX will be making its Olympic debut this year, after being approved by the Olympic Association in 2017. The sport has been likened to other extreme disciplines such as skateboarding and snowboarding and promises to keep spectators entertained with its various tricks, flips and spins.
“If you’ve ever watched snowboarding at the Winter Olympics then it will be quite similar to that,” explained Worthington.
“Lots of airtime, lots of flips, and you’ll be able to see the difficultly of the tricks visually even if you don’t know what they’re called. It will be mind-blowing and exciting.”
Whilst the decision to include freestyle BMX in the Olympics has split opinion in the BMX community, with some claiming it could damage the ‘free’ nature and tradition of their events, Worthington is happy to see her sport given the opportunity on the greatest of stages.
“I think it’s an absolutely massive positive for the sport. I hope that it will increase the profile of the athletes taking part in the games and it will hopefully inspire a whole new generation of young people to go outside and give it a go.
“It’s very accessible in the UK, there are more and more skate parks being built and there are some amazing facilities.
“Some of my own friends aren’t so keen on the idea, but they’re often the people who are considered quite old school and the grassroots of the sport, so I respect their opinion.”
After switching from professional scooter riding to start freestyle BMX, Worthington says the exclusivity of her team accompanied with the competitiveness of a male-dominated sport has helped her to achieve the success she’s had on the bike.
“Growing up and being surrounded by the men in a male-dominated sport made me push to try and be like any other boy in the sport at the time and I still believe that,” she said.
“I still try and keep up with my teammates even though I am miles behind [the boys] but I don’t believe in riding like a girl, you just ride.
“We’ve only got a small number of people on the team, it’s really exclusive. There are only one or two spots up for grabs, so everyone is really competitive to get that number one spot.
“But we’re all mates and we have been mates since before this all began.”
The former chef relocated from Manchester to Corby in the East Midlands and now trains full time at one of Europe’s best skate parks called Adrenalin Alley.
“I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic facility right on my doorstep,” said Worthington.
“This facility has foam pits and resi ramps [padded landing ramps] which allow you to go from one step to another to gradually build your confidence in a trick and so you learn the aerodynamics of that trick.”
Between now and the games, Worthington will spend her time focusing on learning new tricks and perfecting those already in the locker. Before jetting off to Hiroshima in April to compete in the first freestyle World Cup of the year and then onto the Olympic test event in Tokyo a week later.