by Chris Bierton July 26, 2021 4 min read
With Freestyle BMX is making it’s Olympic Debut this week in Tokyo, we’re so proud to see Logan Martin & Natalya Diehm representing Australia. It’s been a long journey to get here, there was injuries, lockdowns, triumphs and heartbreak along the way - and we want to give you a bit of insight into the road to Tokyo.
In our previous article we covered the basics of the qualification system - so here we are going to tell the story of the Australian Team and their goal to qualify for the Games.
The official qualification process for the 2020 Olympics started in November 2018 and Australia was in a great spot. In the Mens, we had Logan Martin (2017 World Champ), Brandon Loupos & Jake Wallwork all competing and performing well on the international scene. In the Womens, we knew we had a lot of potential in Natalya Diehm. The team set out to qualify top for mens (getting 2x slots) and rank for Womens (getting 1x spot).
But early on, things went south. Logan Martin had a freak training accident at RampFest - breaking his leg and ruling himself out for the first 2x qualifying events - the China World Cup & the 2018 World Championships - missing key qualification points. Jake Wallwork & Brandon Loupos stepped up though - taking the win at the World Cup (Jake Wallwork), and securing a 3rd place (Brandon Loupos) and 4th place (Jake Wallwork) at the World Championships. However, USA took the World Champs win with Justin Dowel, and were in the top spot early on.
Check out Jakes World Cup winning run here:
So this wasn’t a great start… but the qualification process is LONG… so now, we move into 2019…
2019 was a big year. There were a lot of contests and a lot of pressure. Riders were excited about the Olympics, BMX was starting to see National Teams at events - and the level of riding started getting out of control!
At the first contest of the year, Brandon Loupos put the whole world on notice that BMX was going up a gear. He won the first Fise Contest of the year with a HUGE score of 95. Blowing the rest of the field away and setting a new standard for the sport. Check out his run here:
In his comeback event, Logan Martin showed he wasn’t far off, with a strong 3rd place finish. And just like that, Aus was back in the hunt!
For the next 2x FISE contests, Logan Martin showed his consistency with another 3rd place and a 4th place. Brandon had a couple of bad days with some early crashes keeping him off the podium & Jake Wallwork kept up his strong showing at all the events - with consistent finals appearances.
Our main rival at this point was clearly the USA - who also had multiple riders in the finals with Justin Dowel, Nick Bruce and Daniel Sandoval all placing strongly.
By the end of the year, Brandon Loupos & Jake Wallwork were still our top point scorers (remember it’s the top 2x Athletes points combined for the Nation Score), and Logan Martin was closing the gap rapidly. USA were still in front, but they were starting to look very nervous of the Aussies…
Enter the 2019 World Championships - double points and a huge opportunity for all the nations to boost their points tally. Australia got Brandon Loupos & Logan Martin into the finals, with Jake Wallwork unfortunately missing out. Here, Brandon showed the world again what he could do - shaking off his last couple of performances, he re-discovered the form of April and put down a MASSIVE score to take an early lead. No one came close to him until Logan Martin dropped in… putting in a very different - but equally insane - first run, the judges took forever to put up a score (showing how close this was). Brandon held the top spot by 0.1 of a point from Logan and ultimately secured the win. But it was a 1-2 for the Aussies, and with 3rd place a long way behind, it was clear who the Olympic Favourites were.
Check out the highlights from the 2019 World Championships:
The 2019 Worlds was also critical for Australia's sole female competitor, Natalya Diehm. As she battled injuries, scoring enough points looked unlikely to qualify her for a spot - but - she was eyeing off the Worlds qualifying spots for the highest ranked athlete from an un-qualified nation. Natalya put together an amazing run - easily her best of the year - and she got 6th - which was enough to basically lock her in a spot for Tokyo! Given the injuries she’s come back from, it was an amazing effort.
At the end of 2019, the World Champs results put Australia neck & neck with the USA for top spot in Mens - with Brandon still our top points scorer and Logan Martin just edging out Jake Wallwork. And Natalya Diehm almost certain of securing a womens spot through the Worlds. All round, a great year
This is Part 1 of Australia's Road to the Olympics - Read Part 2 about 2020 & 2021.
The Olympic Freestyle BMX Competition will be shown live on Channel 7 - with the Seeding Round taking place on July 31st from 11am, and the Medal Round on August 1st 11am.
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