by Chris Bierton July 26, 2021 5 min read
We don’t really need much preamble for 2020 - this was the year that chaos reigned across the world with the Covid pandemic… events were cancelled, Olympics were postponed. There was a 3-4 week period were no one knew what was happening, and Australia & USA were scrambling to put on last minute events to get the top spot for Mens. In the end, a cutoff date was backdated and Aus & USA ended on dead even points… who would have guessed!
But.. this was good for Australia - in the event of a tie, the top spot goes to the Nation with the better World Championships results - and that was us. It looked like we were going to get the 2x spots… but everything was on hold and unconfirmed. The Olympics were pushed back to 2021, and all the Nations set about keeping their athletes in top shape through another year…
Australia built training facilities & ran local events - the USA did much the same. But for the rest of 2020, there were no major international contests… so everyone was left wondering if the Aussies were still the men to beat???
2021 started off with as much confusion as 2020 ended… covid was still out there, competitions were still cancelled, everyone was still riding. But, the Olympics were still on - and the Australia riders were focused like never before. The level of riding at a daily training session was out of control - Logan & Brandon looked better than ever. Natalya was improving out of sight. All was looking good.
It looked like Australia was going to keep the top spot, with no more events to change the points before the Olympics… and then a curveball. The UCI decided to host a 2021 World Championship in France - on 4 weeks notice! Now, Australia wasn’t a fan of this idea… but it was happening, so our boys had to go. Natalya had her spot secured by this point (it was mathematically impossible for her to miss out), so she could stay home and avoid the covid quarantine.
The assignment was simple for Brandon and Logan - go to Worlds, beat the USA - secure the 2x spots. They were ready, confident and riding better than ever. We didn’t think anyone could touch them - it was a slam dunk…. but sport is never really like that.
The event started to plan - Brandon & Logan qualified easily for Finals, riding well within themselves, and ready to unleash and put their stamp all over the event. Brandon was riding in the first Heat of Finals, and Logan in the last.
Sitting up to start his run, Brandon looked calm and ready… and he flew out of the gates! First jump - double flip, next air - Flair Double Whip, next jump - 360 Whip to Bar, next jump - Flip Triple Tailwhip! More tricks in 4 hits than most people can do in 60 seconds - he was ON. Watching the first 20 seconds, we were sure we were about to see another Aussie podium.
And then… he grabbed his knee… took his foot off the pedal… slid off his bike and the medics rushed in….
Brandon was yelling in pain - and damn it was tough to watch. But what happened? His landing looked perfect… it wasn’t until days later we learned that it was his ACL - it just snapped. No crash, no visible reason - just snapped. Brandon bravely tried to strap up and ride his 2nd run, knowing what was on the line… but couldn’t make it past the first jump. It was over. 20seconds was enough to get him 11th place… his dream of Tokyo gone.
Watching on, and one of the first people Brandon spoke to, was Logan. The disappointment was clear for everyone, but Logan still had his run to do.
Logan stepped up… dropped in… and damn did he deliver. His run had it all, 720 Double Bearskin, 1080, Front flips, big transfers, flairs, opposite and regular triple whips, PLUS the all-new Front Bike Flip. He scored a 94 in his first run - jumping to the top of the leaderboard, and no one could touch him. To show how dominant his performance was, his 2nd run also scored a 93 - which would have also won the contest (2nd place scored a 92). Logan secured his 2nd world championship win.
Like we said at the start, Triumph and Disaster…
Ultimately Australia got 2nd to the USA on points (their top athletes finished 4th & 5th at Worlds), and we got one Olympic spot - which went to Logan Martin.
So that’s it - after 2.5 years of events, covid chaos & training, Logan Martin & Natalya Diehm have qualified to be Australia’s first Freestyle BMX Competitors at the Olympic Games. And that’s something pretty special - win or lose. We know they’ll both do Australia & BMX immensely proud and the effort, hard work and dedication they’ve put into riding bikes is unreal - plus, they’re both awesome people - and we’ll be watching and cheering them on as hard as anyone.
The last 2.5 years showcased everything amazing and heartbreaking about sport - the effort, the injury comeback, the beat-the-odds moments and the devastating last minute injuries. Obviously we’ve been following the whole process closely, and have got to give a huge shout out to Brandon Loupos for his efforts - if it wasn’t for an ACL injury, we’re certain he would have been a gold medal contender. Jake Wallwork is another rider with a huge mention - his performances through the whole qualifying period were amazing - and a testament to his determination to juggle professional BMX around a day job.
We also want to give a shout out to the coaches, staff, training partners, friends and supporters - everyone has played their role in this long long process.
But now, its onto the Games...
This is Part 2 of Australia's Road to the Olympics - for the start of the journey, check out Part 1 - about 2018 & 2019
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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