BMX racing is one of the newest sports in the summer Olympics, and will be competed for only the third time at the Rio de Janeiro Games in August 2016.
The sport was first introduced in Beijing in 2008, with a 19 year old Liam Phillips being the first rider out the gates for time trials and becoming the first ever person to officially ride a BMX in the Olympics. He’ll be competing for gold again for Team GB this time around in Rio – but we’ll get to that in more detail later!
Historically, Latvia have been the most successful country in BMX racing in the men’s category – or to be more exact, Latvian Maris Strombergs has been the most successful, taking home the gold in both Beijing and London. In the women’s category, French rider Anne-Caroline Chausson won in 2008 in China before Mariana Pajon of Colombia took the top prize in England.
Let’s run through some of the basics for BMX Racing at the Olympics – everything you need to know before you sit down to cheer on your riders of choice at the Games this year!
Rio 2016 Olympic BMX Racing: The Events and Course
There are only two BMX Racing events at the Olympic Games; the men’s and the women’s categories.
How many riders compete in Olympic BMX racing? 32 countries have qualified for the men’s event, and, while just 16 compete in the women’s category. This makes for a slight difference in formatting between the categories, which you can read about in the rules section below.
The riders compete in a time trial for seeding in the three-run quarter-finals, then progress through to the three-run semi-finals and finally onto the final, where one run decides the medallists.
You can find out more from our article on the Olympic BMX Racing course here.
Who is Representing Team GB in BMX Racing at the Olympics?
BMX Racing is one of the events that Team GB will be looking to medal at this summer. The main hope will be two-time Olympian Liam Phillips, who won the World Championships in 2013 and has won the UCI Supercross World Cup series for the past two years.
Though he crashed out in the finals in London in 2012, having competed just 10 weeks after having surgery on his collarbone, he’s got a lot more experience under his belt now and will fancy his chances.
Read our feature interview with Liam Phillips here for more information on Liam, his career and his hopes for Rio.
Kyle Evans is the 22 year old Rio hopeful who will be accompanying Liam to the Olympics, having won the silver medal at the World Cup stop in Manchester this year, where Liam took gold, he will also have his sights on a podium spot!
Find out more about the Team GB medal hopefuls for BMX racing and their rivals here.
Rio 2016 Olympic BMX Racing: The Rules
The Olympics format sees a time trial precede quarter-finals, semi-finals and the decisive final, though as the women’s category has half as many competitors as the men’s, they skip directly from the time trials to the semi-finals.
The format sees each quarter-final and semi-final comprise of three races, with each rider being awarded a point-per-place at the end of each run. So, if you finish first you get one point, if you finish second you get two, and so on. At the end of the three runs, the four riders with the least amount of points in each heat progress through to the next round.
The finals only comprise of one run, and the first person who’s front wheel crosses the finish line takes home the gold.
For a more in depth look at the Olympic BMX racing rules click here to read our detailed guide to everything you need to know.
When is BMX Racing on at the Rio 2016 Olympics?
The Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics start on 5 August. For UK viewers, the Games will be broadcast live on the BBC. The BMX racing will run from Wednesday 17 August to Friday 19 August, with the finals of both the men’s and women’s events taking place on that Friday.
The event will take place at the Olympic BMX Centre.
Read our article on the BMX racing Rio 2016 Olympic schedule here for more information on the dates and times of each heat.