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Olympic Freestyle BMX Explained - Part 2: How does Judging Work?

July 25, 2021 4 min read

Freestyle BMX at the Olympics Explained How does judging work

Freestyle BMX is a judged sport - and the judges scores determine the winner.  Different events on the UCI Calendar have different requirements when it comes to judges - some local event only need 3, some events need an extra “head judge”, and major events like World Championships and the Olympics have 5 judges. 

How are Freestyle BMX Runs Scored?

After each run, each judges will give a score between 0 - 99.99, and all 5x judges scores will be averaged together for the total run score.  But how does each individual judge determine their score?  Well… this is where it gets a bit complicated.  Ultimately, Freestyle BMX is judged as an “overall impression” of the run.  Which means there are no set trick scores like in Gymnastics or diving.  When scoring a run, the judges consider:

  • Difficulty of tricks (how hard were the tricks in the run)
  • execution of tricks (how well did the rider land - was it all clean, sketchy etc)
  • risk factor (did they roll the dice or play it safe)
  • Unique tricks (was their run different to others)
  • Speed, style & height (what was the amplitude of the run)
  • Use of course (did they use all the different ramps)

Judges always take notes and watch a few replays etc after the run to help with their score.  The UCI has a full Freestyle BMX Judging Method document available if you're super interested in looking for a much longer read.


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Using the Scores to Rank Riders

Jason Watts 360 Lookback at RampFest

It’s important to remember that the scoring is all about the ranking in the field - not the score so much itself.  The score is a reflection of how that judge sees that run compared to all the others in the same competition - run scores cannot be compared across different events.  The olympics might be won with a 90.00 out of 100, but the World Championships were won with a 94.47 out of 100.  This doesn’t mean the World Championship run was better - just different judges (or maybe less generous feeling judges).  

The judges do try to bring consistency to this as much as possible with a basic guidelines for scoring ranges - but there is always some variation.  The range of scores is also important.  For example, if a judge won’t score two runs 90 & 91 respectively if they believe there is a big gap between them (even if they are say first and second in the ranking).  They’ll make sure the scoring range reflects the difference between the runs and score say 87 & 93.

How will we see the Scores?

Another thing about the Olympic Judging is that the scoring is live.  Once all judges have finalised their scores, you'll see it on TV.  There is no opportunity to revise and change later - so you might see some long delays as they debate their rankings and positions.  This is definitely a good thing - you’d rather them by thorough and go over their notes to make sure they make the right call.  No one wants to be looking back and thinking they messed it up.

The Freestyle BMX Olympic Judges will also be from a mix of different nations - like all other judged sports at the Olympics.  This is there to remove favouritism from there scoring. 


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Who are the Judges?

Freestyle BMX is ultimately judged on the opinion of the judges - but these aren’t just people off the street.  To be a Judge, you have to do a training course, work with other judges for a time period and practice your craft like everything else.  The judges are all people who have lived and breathed BMX for a long time - often former Pro Riders themselves, they understand deeply the sport, and understand from personal experience how hard / dangerous different tricks are.  

They aren’t robots and will never totally agree (one judge might think a 720 Tailwhip is harder than a 360 Triple Tailwhip and score accordingly), but for the most part, the riders are very accepting of the final score - acknowledging that they may not always agree, but that’s the joy / pain of a judges sport.  And it certainly leads to plenty of good commentary.

What's Next?

This is Part 2 of our Freestyle BMX Explained series Part 1 gave us an overview of the Competition Format. Part 3 covers the athletes competing & qualification process.  

We've also got a 2-part article about Australia's Road to the Olympics - Check out Part 1 about 2018-2019, and 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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