BMX freestyle rider Hannah Roberts poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on Nov. 20, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Hannah Roberts’ lifelong love of BMX began when she was 8 years old.
“I saw a (bike) contest on TV and I told my dad, ‘I want to try this one,’” Roberts said. “So they got me my first bike. It was just me and my bike and that’s what got my attention.”
It wasn’t long after she got into BMX, and now about 10 years later, she is Olympic bound. In between have come a lot of memories, and a lot of winning.
“I love to compete. I’m a pretty competitive person,” Roberts said. “My most memorable moment was winning the world championship in 2019 just because I was surrounded by all my friends. … That was an incredible moment for me. I took third in 2018 so I put in a lot more work and to see my work pay off in that one event (in 2019) that was everything that I wanted. So I could not have asked for anything better and I think that will always be one of my favorite events for the rest of my life.”
And now at age 19 — she turns 20 in August — Roberts will be making her own Olympic debut as well as debuting her sport at the Games.
“To qualify, it’s amazing,” she said. “I had a phenomenal 2019 season. I’m incredibly grateful and I put in more work and tried to make my riding as good as possible and that really paid off. And that was really incredible to see throughout that season. I didn’t know I would be announced to the team so early.”
The form of BMX Roberts practices is called freestyle — one of two BMX disciplines in the Olympic program — in which athletes execute tricks in the same park used by skateboarders, full of walls and jumps. Roberts loves the challenge of the sport.
“It’s a lot of muscle memory so it takes a lot of time and training to get to doing it comfortably,” she said. “And it’s a lot of trust in yourself. Learning things is all technical. You have to be able to learn how much time you have in the air and the control you have on your bike. If you’re riding outside you have to factor in the wind and the light that throws off your perception a little bit. It is a very technical sport but once you get the hang of it, it’s limitless.”
Roberts also loves the camaraderie among her community of riders and gets along well with many other athletes in BMX.
“I’m friends with all the pros and I love them all,” she said. “Everybody is unique in their own way. But I think the one person that I watch off the videos that I love every second is Logan Martin. He is just incredible. He is just an overall great guy.”
It has been more than a year since Roberts officially qualified for Tokyo. The COVID-19 pandemic not only postponed the Games but presented issues in competing and training.
“It was a bit hard to train during COVID with all the shutdowns,” she said. “… I have seen the exact same eight or nine people at the skate park and even built a gym in the skate park to work out. For three months it was a little intense. I took a few weeks off just to enjoy being me and being home. It was a little weird, a little overwhelming at first.”
Roberts also is supported by Team Milk, and for her that forms an essential part of her training as well.
“It means so much to me,” she said of Team Milk. “I have memories with my grandpa and parents with drinking milk. I still drink three or four glasses a day. Being able to partner up with them and ride for them is incredible for me and it’s an amazing, amazing team to be a part of. And they’re super supportive. And it has a huge impact on my athletic performance and training.”
Now with the Games finally set to go ahead, Roberts is feeling the excitement and has her sights firmly set on earning the historic first Olympic gold medal in BMX freestyle.
“I’m super excited to go to the Olympics,” Roberts said. “Everything I’ve been working towards for this past year has been what I’ve been focusing on. To be able to go compete and be my absolute best is an incredible feeling. The goal is gold. Whether I win or lose I know I’m putting in every ounce of work. I’m going to go and have fun with my friends and enjoy my experience there.
“Bringing home the gold would be (icing) on the cake.”