Five years ago Charlotte Worthington was rolling burritos, now she’s wrapped up one of the most outstanding moments in BMX history.
The 360 backflip had been the holy grail in the women’s freestyle division, having never been landed in a competition before – until now.
Just 30 minutes after hitting the deck with her first attempt at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Team GB’s Worthington nailed it with her second try, bike and body spiraling like a gyroscope before letting the tyres hit the ground.
“Charlotte has opened Pandora’s box and there’s another level. It was a huge GameChanger,” said BBC Sport commentator Jon Taylor, a BMX rider who has invented many tricks himself.
The 360 backflip – or the Zakflip, named for its creator Zach Shaw – was the peak of a world-class, gold-medal winning routine for Worthington that received a 97.50 from the judges, the highest score across the men’s and women’s events.
It was the jewel in the crown of GB’s remarkable BMX performance in Tokyo, culminating with two gold medals, a silver and a bronze.
“It was incredible. I’ve not been doing that trick for that long, but we’ve been trying to find that big banger trick and when we found it we were like, ‘I think this is the one,” said Worthington, 25, who used to work in a restaurant in Manchester.
“We set the target of the gold medal and it was either go big or go home.”
It is a trick that is harder to perform than it is to explain.
“When you hit a regular backflip it’s straight up the jump and backflipping. With the 360 flip, you’re actually turning off axis and you’re doing a 360 upside-down,” said Taylor.
“The first attempt could have gone so much worse. I’ve seen a lot of people get really hurt from that trick.
“It’s so blind because you’re upside-down and you’re spinning. Usually, with a backflip, you have the sky or roof to figure out where you are and you can spot your landing.
“But with the 360 everything is crazy because you see the ramp come back around and then you’re twisting again into the landing.”
What made Worthington’s version so impressive was how quickly it came after her initial heavy fall.
She had managed it a “few times” on the forgiving rubber surface in training and had only landed it on the punishing wooden floor for the first time in practice in Tokyo, something Taylor said “lit up the internet and was all over Instagram”.
Lining up bottom of the leaderboard going into her second run, a conservative, bronze-medal routine may have been the sensible approach. But Worthington and coach Jamie Bestwick, a trailblazer in BMX freestyle, had other ideas.
“I’ve learned if you gamble and give yourself that chance then it can pay off and you’ll feel better than if you hold back,” she said.
“I’ve probably been working on it a few months. I keep my cards close to my chest because it definitely pays off in these situations.”
It was likely the only trick Worthington could have pulled out to prevent American three-time world champion Hannah Roberts from continuing her dominance of freestyle titles.
In the process, she has put her name next to a landmark moment in the sport.
“Not only is she the first woman to do it in a contest but she’s the first woman I’ve ever seen do that trick in the world,” said Taylor.
“She is now the person to beat. Hannah has had that mantle for so many years and Charlotte wouldn’t have done that without Hannah and it’s pushed her to do that trick.
“What she’s done is huge not only for women’s BMX but BMX in general because what she did was so stylish.”
After landing the biggest trick in the business, where can Worthington go next?
“The beauty is you can also do the 720 version,” expressed Taylor.
“What she’s attained inside BMX I don’t think will sink in until she gets home and sees what the community is saying, the BMX community is like ‘this is insane’.”