Olympics-Cycling-BMX gold hopeful Roberts thanks wife for support

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - BMX Freestyle - Women's Park - Seeding - Ariake Urban Sports Park, Tokyo, Japan - July 31, 2021. Hannah Roberts of the United States in action REUTERS/Matthew Childs

TOKYO (Reuters) - Hannah Roberts, tipped as a favourite to win the first women's BMX freestyle gold at the Olympics, had a more productive pandemic than most people.

In the past year alone, 19-year-old Roberts bought a home and married her wife Kelsey, all while training for the delayed Tokyo Olympics, where BMX freestyle made its historic debut on Saturday.

Roberts earned an average score of 87.70 between her two runs, putting her at the top of the pack ahead of fellow American Perris Benegas and Nikita Ducarroz of Switzerland.

After her runs, Roberts said her success was due in large part to the support of her entire family, including her new in-laws.

"My wife is such a huge support, I mean she's always there. On my worst days she drives me to the park and calls me tricks to do, so that's incredible," Roberts said.

"I wouldn't be here without her."

The women's freestyle finals will take place on Sunday, where nine riders will be judged on the consistency, height, and difficulty of their runs.

Like many of her rivals, Roberts is no stranger to injury. She started riding when she was nine and suffered a fractured T4 vertebra a year later.

"At that point I didn't think I was going to ride again, I thought I was done," she said, adding that the support she received from the wider BMX community after her injury kept her in the sport.

"I've had a lot injuries, I've had to rebuild myself back up and it got me here," said Roberts, who has won three of the past four world championships.

Both BMX racing and freestyle are known to be dangerous sports.

Several riders crashed on Friday including American Connor Fields who was carried off to hospital.

(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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