Less than a month away from the July 23 opening ceremony, the nation is full of anticipation and excitement for the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. Team USA boasts fantastic athletes like Simone Biles and Ryan Murphy, alongside an exceptional first-time Olympic hopeful from Michigan.
Hannah Roberts is a 19-year-old BMX rider from Buchanan. She is a three-time World Cup freestyle winner and three-time world champion, and she’s set to make waves in Tokyo with her event, BMX Freestyle, which will debut this summer.
BMX freestyle is a creativity-driven event where each rider has one minute to display their best flips, skills, and tricks, with points awarded for originality, execution, and height. Roberts was introduced to the sport by seeing it on TV as a child, and she happens to have a well-known cyclist cousin Brett Banasiewicz. She asked her father to get her a bike, and the rest is history in the making.
Hannah Roberts joined Stateside to discuss her journey from the Great Lakes to those great big five rings. Check out a few excerpts from our conversation with the Olympian below.
On what makes BMX freestyle unique
“It’s a way for you to show yourself on your bike. Nobody’s style is the exact same. You won’t see riders that do the exact same things every single hit just because, you know, it’s a variety, it’s a diversity...The creative level is a whole ‘nother thing, because you could just go ride the entire course, do whatever you want, and then you know that the person behind you isn’t going to do exactly what you did.”
On the COVID-19 delay
“When [the Olympics] got postponed, it was mentally hard, but I’m grateful that in North Carolina I had a phenomenal group of athletes to work with...We made a strict kind of quarantine within ourselves. We couldn’t go into public at all. No grocery stores, no nothing, which obviously we all respected. We wanted to keep each other and ourselves safe, so it was between going home and going to the skate park, and that’s what we did every day for three months.”
“But you know, after quarantine, when you’re doing the same thing with the same people every single day, all day for three months, it gets pretty exhausting...I don’t think I would have made it through or made it out the same if I didn’t have the athletes that I had, my family behind me, and of course my wife next to me through every step of it.”
On her Michigan roots
“Throughout my entire journey, my town Buchanan has just been so supportive. You know, whatever I needed, especially when I was in school...my teachers never gave me any hassle. The principals never gave me any hassle. They all understood and they all seen my dream. So without them, I don’t think I’d be in the position I am today.”
On the future of BMX after the Olympics
“Having skateboarding and having surfing and BMX, it’s another way for younger kids to be like, yeah, you know, I want to be an Olympian because there’s something that I’m actually interested in. And so I think it’s going to help our sport grow and get more riders, get more people to see that we are a sport and that, you know, doing flips on bikes is cool.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Mary Claire Zauel.