Chinese BMX impresses as they prepare to go for gold

Chinese BMX impresses as they prepare to go for gold.jpg

Sun Sibei in action. [Photo/]

The "Kingdom of Bicycles" has earned some bragging rights as Chinese women dominated the podium in BMX freestyle at the Shanghai leg of the Olympic Qualifier Series.

Bar spins, high-flying flips and the killer double tailwhips - the proud home favorite Sun Sibei threw jaw-dropping tricks one after another, sending the Shanghai crowd in "oohs" and "aahs" on her way to score a field-high 95.86 points in her second run to win the final of women's BMX freestyle on May 18 at the Huangpu Riverside park.

Her teammate Sun Jiaqi finished second by scoring 93.68 points from an almost equally flawless first run and Deng Yawen earned 91.5 points also from a solid first run to complete the podium at the first stop of the OQS.

The world's best will now set their sights on the second and final OQS leg in Budapest next month to vie for a total of six quota places up for grabs in each gender for the Paris Olympic Games.

BMX, or "bicycle motorcross", features 12 athletes each in men's and women's events at its second Olympic tournament in Paris with five qualification berths, barring one reserved for the host, each gender having already earlier decided world championships in 2022 and 2023.

"I think this victory today belongs to the Chinese BMX team as a whole. We always support each other, motivate each other and push each other to reach new levels whenever we compete together," third-placed Deng said of the home riders' impressive runs in Shanghai.

"No matter who makes it to Paris, we are proud of ourselves collectively as one. This only shows the fast progress of Chinese BMX in recent years and we take huge pride in being part of this team," said 18-year-old Deng, who started BMX training in 2017.

Without any athletes finishing on the podium at the sport's Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2021, Team China is pushing fast ahead with its Olympic medal ambition in Paris and its rise to medal contention has caught attention from more established international opponents.

Five-time world champion Hannah Roberts of United States was one of the world elites impressed by the Chinese team.

"The Chinese riders have such a unique trick base. They're kind of leading for tricks," she said after settling with fourth place with a score of 91.24 points from her second run that featured smooth execution of a variety of tricks.

"Leading up to the Olympics, I knew I just need a top-six (finish). It's kind of the only reason I came. If I want to beat the Chinese, I need to be a little bit more consistent, a little bit smoother."

"It looked like they have so much fun on their bikes, so probably have a little bit more fun instead of worrying about all the extra stuff. But obviously going to the Olympics is the goal," said Roberts, who won a silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The reigning Olympic champion Charlotte Worthington of Britain struggled with a poor form on May 18 as the 27-year-old finished bottom in the 12-rider final with two mediocre runs that scored her no more than 70 points in each.