Charlotte Worthington had promised to unveil something with “more of the wow factor” in her quest to add a European BMX title in Munich to the Olympic gold her skill and audacity secured in Tokyo last summer. It is all part of the Mancunian’s grand plan to twist and shout once again in the summer of 2024 in Paris.
There have been ebbs and flows already, including a ferocious crash earlier this year in Montpellier when even she attested to pushing too far. Into her bag of tricks here she dropped a 720-degree twist. However, its test ride crashed and burned with medals on the line in the Park final on Friday, the 26-year-old twice felled on the track and limping off eighth and last.
Gambles worth taking, she signalled beforehand. “I do not want to be a one-hit wonder,” Worthington declared. “I want to learn how to be a dominant athlete that’s in the top spot and not just on the podium.”
These Euros, as significant as they appear, offer an ideal platform to rehearse and learn. “And thankfully,” she added, “the Olympic point-scoring doesn’t start until later this year. So this is all kind of trial and error. But it’s a really good opportunity to learn how to cope with those challenges”.
Worthington has a secondary ambition, to deploy her celebrity in the cause of encouraging more young females to conjure their own magic on two wheels. It is work already in progress. Crediting her illustrious teammate as a “big role model”, 16-year-old Sasha Pardoe came sixth, above Worthington, on her championship debut.
The teenager, from the outskirts of Birmingham, goes by the nickname Sasha Shredder. There were nerves coming here but she did not let them tear her apart. Good habits have been instilled by her father Gavin, a former Great Britain international road racer who set up an urban sports park where his daughter first caught the BMX bug.
“He took me to get my first bike and I walked past all of the pink bikes and went for this yellow BMX called a Barracuda Dirt Squirt,” she recounted. “And I just immediately fell in love with it.”
Gavin’s career faltered due to lack of funds. “He came from a working-class family so he had to get a 9-5 job as well,” she revealed. He has been enduringly supportive with his offspring. Awaiting her GCSE results, she is primed to combine an apprenticeship as a chef with dreams of following in Worthington’s footsteps.
British Cycling have put resources behind qualifying two females for Paris 2024. Going there in tandem, Worthington believes, will be more fun than flying solo. “And there’s just more and more girls popping up in the UK and with so much support,” the elder stateswoman added. “Once you see it, you can believe it. People are now opening their eyes to what’s possible.”
Shaun Gornall and Kieran Reilly go in today’s men’s final after qualifying second and third with British teammate Declan Brooks now discharged from hospital following a crash that left him with concussion on Thursday.
The British track cycling team opened their account in the velodrome on Friday with a surprise European silver in the women’s 10km scratch race for Jess Roberts and bronzes in the men’s team pursuit and team sprint. Roberts, 23, took five months out last summer and considered quitting the sport but powered her way to second place behind Norway’s Anita Stenberg.
Earlier, the UK’s first medal on two wheels was secured by an untested crew of Rhys Britton, Oliver Wood, Charlie Tanfield and Kian Emadi, who defeated Germany by more than a second to earn bronze in the men’s team pursuit. “It’s a new lineup for the four guys we had this in this competition. So anything was a bonus, podium-wise,” said Tanfield who has now won bronze in this event in three of the last four Europeans.
“We weren’t really expecting anything to be honest. So, to get a bronze, it’s good. I feel as though we rode well as a team and rode out quickly on this track – which is pretty mad.” France overcame Denmark for gold. Jack Carlin, Ali Fielding and Hamish Turnbull beat out Poland to earn men’s team sprint bronze with the Netherlands taking victory over France in the final.
With no velodrome of Olympic specification in southern Germany, the one here has been scaffolded together at Munich’s vast convention centre. It is squashed to the point that the oval is only 200m long, 50m less than the UCI standard. Tokyo medallist Neah Evans outlined the psychological torment of the changes after the British women were bested by France in their team pursuit bronze medal chase.
“So much of it is about feeling, knowing where to hurt, where to squeeze and all the rest of it,” said the Scot, who arrived straight from the Commonwealth Games, said. “This just completely threw us. It didn’t help us knowing that other nations have trained together and worked on it. And we didn’t have that opportunity.”
Former world champion Non Stanford concluded her triathlon career on a high with victory in the women’s triathlon at the European Championships.
The 33-year-old Welshwoman produced a strong run leg to sweep past a lead group of three on the penultimate lap of Munich’s Olympic Park and then surged clear for her first win since 2019 in a time of one hour, 52 minutes and 10 seconds.
“It’s a complete surprise if I’m honest,” Stanford, who also earned a team relay silver at the Commonwealth Games, said. “This is actually my last-ever world triathlon race, I’m retiring this year and 2011 was the first time I represented Great Britain at a European Champs so it’s quite fitting that this is the last time I will ever represent Great Britain. To come away with gold is absolutely beyond my expectations.”
Katie Shanahan’s status as an emerging aquatic high-achiever grew again in Rome as the 18-year-old secured silver in the women’s 200 metres backstroke. James Wilby linked with Medi Harris, Jacob Peters and Anna Hopkin for bronze in the mixed 4×100 medley behind the Netherlands and Italy.
Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi, as he did at June’s world championships, took full advantage of the absence of the defending champion Adam Peaty to grab gold.