BMX In The Olympic Games

The first ‘modern’ Olympic Games were held in Athens, in 1896. Many years later, in the late 1960s, BMX was born. It took it a couple of decades of growth until it finally made it to the greatest sports event on the planet.

BMX is an Olympic sport since 2008 when it had its debut in Beijing. The BMX racing Olympic history continued in London 2012 and Rio 2016. In 2017, the International Olympic Committee announced that BMX Freestyle Park will have its debut in Tokyo 2020 (postponed to 2021).

Let’s take a look at each participation of BMX in the Olympic Games.

BMX In Beijing 2008

In 2003 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had announced that BMX would be included in the Olympic programme for 2008. So Beijing is the city where history was made for BMX. In 2008 a BMX racer received an Olympic gold medal for the first time. Going further, the first BMX Olympic champion was actually a woman, as the women’s final race was held before men’s final.


The qualification for the Olympic Games was determined by two criterions.

  • Criterion #1: The best nations in the UCI Ranking by Nation contributed with the first qualified riders. This ranking is drawn up by summing the points of the best 3 riders from each nation in the UCI rankings. The UCI rankings are determined by the points accumulated in 4 different categories of events: UCI BMX World Championships, UCI BMX World Cup, Continental Championships and National Championships.
  • Criterion #2: Ranking by Nation at the World Championship. This ranking is calculated taking into account the position of the riders of each nation in the elite finals of the 2008 UCI BMX World Championship (discarding the nations already qualified by criterion #1).

Each criterion above contributed with a specific number of riders in order to have the 32 men and 16 women qualified. The qualification quota per nation for Beijing was as follows:


New Zealand81
Czech Republic91
South Africa3rd place Final1
Italy6th place Semi-final1
Great Britain7th place Quarterfinal1
Switzerland5th place in 1/81
Denmark5th place in 1/81
Canada6th place in 1/81


New Zealand22
Czech Republic51
Great Britain1st place Final1
Denmark6th place Semi-final1
Switzerland8th place Semi-final1

The Track

The first Olympic BMX track was the ‘Laoshan BMX venue’, located at Shijingshan District in west Beijing. It was built between 2006 and 2007 and had a capacity of 4000 seats. This track was inaugurated in 2007 when it hosted the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup as a test for the Olympics.

Competition Format

The BMX competition was held on August 20th-21st. The seeding runs were held on Wednesday 20th and the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and finals were held on Thursday 21st.

Seeding Runs

Each of the 32 men and 16 women performed two runs (individual time trials) in order to determine their seeding for the quarterfinals (men) and semi-finals (women). They started the runs in the reverse order of their UCI BMX Ranking, with the lowest-raked riders starting first and the #1 starting last.

Starting Gates Pick

The best man and woman of the seeding runs would have the first gate pick for the first run of the next round. The gate pick order for runs 2 and 3 would be based on the results of the previous run.

Qualifiers And Final

In the quarterfinals, the men were divided into 4 heats. Each heat performed 3 runs. The riders accumulated points in each of the 3 heats based on their results (1st place – 1 point). The best 4 riders in each heat (with less accumulated points) advanced to the semi-finals.

The 16 riders in the semi-finals were divided into 2 heats. The same system of runs and points qualified the top 4 riders in each heat to the final.

The final, as always, consisted of a single race, with 8 riders fighting for the gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Final Results

Women’s Final

Anne-Caroline Chausson, from France, became the first-ever BMX Olympic champion. Chausson had won multiple mountain bike world championships between 1993 and 2005 before grabbing a BMX bike in pursuit of the Olympic dream. After her gold medal in Beijing, she went back to mountain bike racing.

The podium was completed with French Laëtitia Le Corguillé and American Jill Kintner. In the final turn, British Shanaze Reade, who was then in 2nd place, crashed against Chausson’s frame when trying to surpass her and ended up on the ground and with a DNF.

These were the results of the final:

1Anne-Caroline ChaussonFrance35.976
2Laëtitia Le CorguilléFrance38.042
3Jill KintnerUSA38.674
4Sarah WalkerNew Zealand38.805
5María Gabriela DíazArgentina39.747
6Nicole CallistoAustralia1:19.609
7Samantha CoolsCanadaDNF
8Shanaze ReadeGreat BritainDNF

Men’s Final

Māris Štrombergs, from Latvia, won the race from the starting hill. It was only the 2nd Olympic gold in Latvia’s history. Štrombergs had won the World Championship a couple of months earlier. That same year he’d also win the European Championship.

Americans Mike Day and Donny Robinson got the silver and bronze medals. A crash in the second turn left Australian Jared Graves, South African Sifiso Nhlapo, and French Damien Godet out of the race.

Final results were as follows:

1Māris ŠtrombergsLatvia36.190
2Mike DayUSA36.606
3Donny RobinsonUSA36.972
4Andrés Jiménez CaicedoColombia39.137
5Rob van den WildenbergNetherlands39.772
6Jared GravesAustralia2:19.233
7Sifiso NhlapoSouth AfricaDNF
8Damien GodetFranceDNF

Here’s a video with the action from both finals:

BMX In London 2012

English capital hosted the Summer Olympic Games for the third time in 2012, after the 1908 and 1948 editions.


Same as for Beijing, the qualification quota per nation was determined by the UCI BMX Ranking by Nation, criterion #1 and #2.

The Track

The BMX track was built right outside the Lee Valley VeloPark, the velodrome where the indoor track competitions were held. It was built in 2011 with a spectator capacity of 6,000. It was tested that same year when it held a series of the BMX Supercross World Cup.

The track featured an innovative underpass in the women’s event and a platform jump for the men’s race. The track for men was 470 meters long, whereas for women it was 430 meters long.

Competition Format

The competition was held on August 8th-10th. The seeding runs were held on the 8th, men’s quarterfinals on the 9th, and all semi-finals and finals were held on the 10th.

Seeding Run

Unlike Beijing, where there were two seeding runs for each rider, in London they had only one seeding run. The results of this run would then serve as the seeding for the next rounds. Again the top riders would be allowed to choose their starting gate position in the quarterfinals (men) and semi-finals (women).


The 32 men in the quarterfinals were distributed into 4 heats of 5 runs each. After the first 3 heats, the top 2 riders of each heat qualified for the semi-finals, without having to finish the remaining two runs. 2 more riders per heat would qualify after the 5th run.

The semi-finals system was exactly as in Beijing, with 2 heats of 3 runs each, qualifying the top 4 riders in each heat for the final.

Final Results

Women’s Final

Colombian Mariana Pajón clinched the golden medal, the 2nd Olympic gold in Colombian history. She had been having notorious success at the highest level since 2010 and was clearly one of the favorites for the podium. After qualifying in 3rd place in the seeding run, she had won her three runs in her semifinal heat.

The podium was completed with New Zealander Sarah Walker and Dutch Laura Smulders.

The Results of the women’s final:

1Mariana PajónColombia37.706
2Sarah WalkerNew Zealand38.133
3Laura SmuldersNetherlands38.231
4Laëtitia Le CorguilléFrance38.476
5Caroline BuchananAustralia38.903
6Shanaze ReadeGreat Britain39.247
7Magalie PottierFrance39.395
8Brooke CrainUSA40.286

Men’s Final

Latvia won three Olympic golds in its history, two of them belong to Māris Štrombergs. He did it again in London. After his double Olympic gold, he won the European Championships in 2013 and 2014. Later, he was eliminated in quarterfinals in Rio2016. In 2018, Štrombergs announced his retirement from professional BMX.

The London podium was completed by Sam Willoughby, from Australia, who had won the World Championship in May that same year, and Carlos Oquendo, from Colombia.

These were the final results for men:

1Māris ŠtrombergsLatvia37.576
2Sam WilloughbyAustralia37.929
3Carlos OquendoColombia38.251
4Raymon van der BiezenNetherlands38.492
5Twan van GendtNetherlands44.744
6Andrés Jiménez CaicedoColombia53.377
7Connor FieldsUSA1:03.033
8Liam PhillipsGreat Britain2:11.918

Here’s a video with the London 2012 finals:

BMX In Rio 2016

They say ‘there’s a first time for everything’ and 2016 was the year for South America to host the Olympic Games. The beautiful coastal city of Rio de Janeiro was the chosen one.


The qualification quota per nation was the same as for the previous editions.

The Track

The BMX competitions in Rio 2016 were held at the Olympic BMX Center. This track was involved in a controversy, as a number of riders had the chance to test it and they agreed that it was too dangerous. The authorities reviewed the track conditions and performed the required modifications.

Competition Format

The competition was held on August 17th (seeding run), 18th (men’s quarterfinals), and 19th (semi-finals and finals).

Seeding Run

The seeding order for the qualifier phases was determined again by a single time trial run. This run was used for distributing the riders in the heats of the next phase based on their results.


In Rio the competition went back to its first (Beijing 2008), more simple format for the men’s quarterfinals: The 32 riders were divided into 4 heats of 3 runs each and the top 4 riders of each heat would qualify for the semi-finals.

The semi-finals were as usual, with 2 heats of 3 runs each, qualifying the top 4 riders in each heat to the final.

Final Results

Women’s Final

Mariana Pajón completely crushed it in Rio 2016 in every possible way. She got the best time in the seeding run, then she won all 3 runs in her heat in the semi-finals, and then she dominated the final from start to finish. She became the first Colombian athlete to win two Olympic golds.

American Alise Post and Venezuelan Stefany Hernandez got the silver and bronze medals in a really stretched final straight.

Women’s final results:

1Mariana PajónColombia34.093
2Alise PostUSA34.435
3Stefany HernandezVenezuela34.755
4Brooke CrainUSA35.520
5Yaroslava BondarenkoRussia36.017
6Elke VanhoofBelgium39.538
7Laura SmuldersNetherlands1:52.235
8Manon ValentinoFrance2:41.109

Men’s Final

Connor Fields won the first gold medal in BMX for the USA. Dutch Jelle van Gorkom got silver, while Colombian Carlos Ramírez and American Nicholas Long had to go to a photo finish decision for the 3rd place. Finally, Ramírez added another medal to Colombia’s rich Olympic BMX history.

1Connor FieldsUSA34.642
2Jelle van GorkomNetherlands35.316
3Carlos RamírezColombia35.517
4Nicholas LongUSA35.522
5Tory NyhaugCanada35.674
6Sam WilloughbyAustralia36.325
7Niek KimmannNetherlands36.579
8Anthony DeanAustraliaDNF

BMX In The Summer Youth Olympics

The first edition of the Youth Olympic Games was in 2010, two years after Beijing and BMX Olympic debut. Not exactly the sports that see action in the ‘senior’ Olympic Games are also present in the YOG (actually, the list of sports in the YOG is slightly shorter). However, BMX participated in all the editions of the YOG, right from scratch.

Each edition of the YOG hosts between 3500 and 4000 athletes aged between 14 and 18. We’ve had three editions so far: Singapore 2014, Nanjing 2014, and Buenos Aires 2018. BMX racing participated in all of them, however, it wasn’t until Buenos Aires 2018 that Freestyle BMX could join the party.

The IOC often uses the YOG as a testing platform for some sports or disciplines and this is exactly the case of freestyle BMX. It was confirmed for Tokyo 2020 in 2017 and tested in the YOG in Buenos Aires 2018.

There are a couple of riders that had a successful participation in the Youth Olympic Games before achieving success in the professional world. Among them, we can see Dutch Twan van Gendt (won silver in Singapore 2010 and became world champion in 2019) and Niek Kimmann (won gold in Nanjing 2014 and then became world champion in 2015).

The 2022 edition of the Youth Olympic Games will be held in Dakar, Senegal.

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Photo credits: [Featured image: by Jonas de Carvalho / Flickr / Creative Commons License][Image #1: by Doma-w / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons License]

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