Introduction to Olympic BMX

BMX | Published: Mon 1 August 2016

Who: 48 athletes from 23 countries

What: Men’s and women’s individual events

Where: Olympic BMX Venue

When: Days 12 - 14

Few events represent the new age of Olympic sport better than the madcap intensity of BMX.


From the 8m downhill starting gates to the turns and bumps, the objective for riders, is to get from start to finish inside the top four, of eight competing athletes to progress to the next round. This is known as the supercross format. It culminates in a final, for both men’s and women’s, where the first three earn the medals.


Riders begin with a seeding run, which then ranks riders based on an individual time trial, before the moto rounds commence which begin the eliminations. With tracks reaching between 300-400m, the sport is a high intensity dash for the line, with high jumps and tight corners ensuring the result is never certain until the finishing mark.


BMX – or Bicycle Moto Cross – is not for the faint of heart. Crashes are regular, and injuries are a part of the job, particularly when it comes to the dash for the inside lane to the first corner, which usually predicates victory. In BMX circles, getting the best start is known as getting the "holeshot” and forms the first and most crucial part of supercross racing.


BMX first originated in the late 1960’s in California, with the sport hosting its first World Championships in Las Vegas in 1982. From its niche roots, the sport exploded, particularly off the back of extreme sport enthusiasts, which put the discipline into the mainstream enough that it earned entry as an Olympic sport at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.


Traditionalists bemoaned the sport’s emergence, but fans and spectators have voted with their feet, with the sport becoming one of hottest tickets at Olympic level, with TV figures suggesting it’s here to stay.


BMX bikes are fixed gear and are smaller than mountain bikes, utilising 20-inch wheels. From a safety protocol, riders wear padded suits, helmets and gloves to protect themselves from serious injury, given that crashes are a regular and legitimate risk.

Australian Sam Willoughby is the only medallist for the country in the two editions previously held at Olympic level, but with riders ranked well inside the top 10 in both men’s and women’s disciplines, it is hoped the Aussies can add to the silver success from London.

Western Australia will be represented by Bunbury-born athlete Lauren Reynolds. Reynolds joins Willoughby and former World Champion Caroline Buchanan in becoming the first athletes to represent Australia at two Olympic Games in the sport of BMX.

Reynolds wears the number 21 and had her 2012 campaign ended at the semi-final stage, after a race crash prevented her from earning a top-four finish and passage to the Olympic final.


To follow Reynolds’ journey in Rio, view her bio below, including information on when she is in action in Brazil.