Charlotte Worthington: The chef putting an Olympic gold medal on her platter

Great Britain's Charlotte Worthington, who won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in BMX freestyle, gave up a career as a chef to compete in BMX having initially ridden scooters.

Charlotte Worthington, the surprise BMX freestyle gold medallist, was a full-time chef at a Mexican restaurant in Manchester. Soon after finishing college, her father fetched her a job in a Mexican restaurant close to the family home in Chorlton in south Manchester.

“I started as a glass collector, then I was a food runner and when people began talking to me and realising I was a bit of a tomboy they thought I’d do well in the kitchen,” she told the BBC two years ago.

She was quite good in the kitchen too, “especially with the pies” as two other restaurants availed her services for a better package. Cycling, though, turned out to be difficult. But once cycling was embraced into the Olympic fold, she quit her job.

“I was sweating it out in the kitchen for over 40 hours a week and barely had any time or energy to ride, but then the sport went into the Olympics and last year I was picked up by British Cycling,” she said.

Her lifestyle was more of a chef’s than a cyclist’s back then. “After being a chef for three years I was on minimal sleep, poor diet, and never working out, and I struggled in my competitions in the first year of my return,” she said.

Finally, it was a bronze she won at the Urban Championship in June that helped secured a spot in the Olympics team.

She started cycling at 13, when she got a scooter for Christmas in 2009. She instantly got hooked into it and gradually progressed to BMX, though her friends found it weird.

“People at high school would call me stupid names like ‘Scoots McGee’ and people just didn’t ‘get me’. They thought I was weird. I suppose everyone in this sport is a little different, but I loved being at the skate park where there were other kids like me who lived for that adrenaline rush, pushed their limits, had fun and liked getting hot and sweaty,” she told The Guardian.

The favourite in her category was American Hannah Roberts, who was leading the charts and was a three-time world champion. But Worthington, who had landed heavily, almost injuring herself, in her first run in the park discipline pulled out the 360 backflip, the most difficult trick in BMX to snatch the lead. She scored a whopping 97.50, a lead that eventually proved unassailable.

The manoeuvre, involves a player flipping backwards, rotating a full turn, and finishing travelling in the original direction. That it had never been performed by a woman before Worthington illustrates how difficult a task it is.

Her celebrations were understandably joyous. ”It was incredible. I’ve not been doing that trick for so long but we’ve been trying to find that big banger trick and when we did we thought, ‘this is the one’. If it wasn’t for Hannah Roberts, we wouldn’t be doing these tricks. It’s a lot of hard work paid off,” she said in the post-match interaction.

She said, she felt unreal: “It’s kind of unreal. I’m waiting to wake up now! I’ve been dreaming about this for four years and it still feels like I’m dreaming.”

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