Hannah Roberts poses for a photo at a Team USA shoot on Nov. 20, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.
BMX freestyle cycling star Hannah Roberts recounts the global adventures of the past few months with hearty laugh. But then she gets quieter, after admitting the truth: not all of this is truly funny.
She crashed, badly, after under-rotating a front flip during her first run at the world championships last month in Abu Dhabi. She still won the world title — her fourth — thanks to a big second run, but Roberts knew she was hurt as she accepted congratulatory hugs from her competitors.
She went into the medical tent, laid down in a daze and felt her left leg grow numb. The other leg wasn’t far behind. It took a few hours between her event ending and the podium ceremony; by the time Roberts was honored, she needed second place finisher Nikita Ducarroz of Switzerland to help her stand.
That best-of-times, worst-of-times dynamic reflects Roberts’ 2022, as she repeated as world champion and overall points champion, but suffered through several significant back and shoulder injuries. She is healing from two burst discs from a practice crash in September, then the additional damage from Abu Dhabi and, most recently, a hard crash in Australia at the start of December.
“I compete because it is all, for me, about the love of the sport,” said Roberts, who won a silver medal in BMX freestyle’s debut as an Olympic event at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. “We know the risk every time we get on the bike, it’s the reality of the sport. You can get hurt really bad. Every time I train, I fall; it’s just part of what happens. I crash; I get up, say, ‘Oh dang, that sucked,’ and I keep going. I don’t even think about what can happen to me next. I keep going because I love this.”
Roberts admits she probably shouldn’t have competed in the Gold Coast, Australia, event on Dec. 9-11, but she made a deal with her coaches: no big tricks, no risks. Just do the best she can, come to support her friends and teammates, and keep things chill. They said OK.
She wanted to finish first in points for the year and felt doing her best with nothing crazy would give her a shot. Roberts crashed hard on her first run, and everything hurt again. She made it through the event and won the points title, but her left shoulder is now added to the recovery list.