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"Do you know of any good restaurants around here?" asks Charlotte Worthington in front of Barcelona's Parc del Fòrum, where this weekend the Extreme Barcelona festival was held, and the answer is difficult: it is far from the best tables in the city. "It doesn't have to be a three-star Michelin, eh, but I can ask for a good paella," he helps.
Her passion for gastronomy could be part of her rise, champion at the Tokyo 2020 BMX freestyle Games, member of the Order of the British Empire and groundbreaking image of brands such as Adidas and Bridgestone, but none of that: it comes from before. Much earlier. In fact, before he took his tiny bicycle and started doing tricks in the air, Worthington worked as a chef in a Mexican restaurant near Manchester – the Racconto Lounge in Bury – and would still do so today if his curious discipline had not become Olympic.
"It was the job that made me who I am. Before it was a bit of a disaster and in the kitchen I learned to organize, to communicate, to be proactive. The experience of working long hours in a high-stress environment still serves me well. In fact I would say that cooking has a lot to do with BMX. Now I train the tricks in the same way I prepared the dishes: I repeat again and again until they come out without thinking, "details the English in a chat with EL MUNDO.
Today there is no one like her in BMX freestyle. During the Tokyo Games, Worthington silenced the judges and the sparse audience of Ariake Park with a 360 backflip, the first completed by a woman, and still no one has been able to match her. Until then I was unknown in a new discipline. Now she is invited to events and galas and recognized by the streets of Manchester, her city. The British press counts on her gold at the Paris 2024 Games, for which she is already qualified.
How much has Olympic gold changed your life? It has completely changed me. Very good things have happened to me, but I went from making burritos to being on TV. I'm not super-known, but the pressure multiplied overnight. Also, before the Tokyo Games, when I left the kitchen, I dedicated all my hours to my BMX tricks and when I won Olympic gold I realized that I no longer had a social life. I had destroyed all my escape routes away from the bike. That's why last year I left the competition for several months. I wanted to rest, rethink why I'm doing this, go to the skate park without planning anything, try to regain the love for my sport. Luckily, it worked.
At 27, Worthington is the standard-bearer of a specialty in diapers and, although her age says otherwise, she is also a veteran. Her rivals, the American Hannah Roberts or the Chinese Huimin Zhou and Sibei Sun, are hardly of age. Of her generation there are few, like the Spanish Teresa Fernández-Miranda, 29, in search of qualification for the Paris 2024 Games. "You have to think that BMX freestyle is a very young sport and that inclusion in the Games has changed a lot of things. Before competitions were a party and now they are very professional. Some veterans have not entered this format. I also don't feel old. Think that I started in BMX at 21 years old, "she recalls and her biography, it is true, has nothing to do with that of other Olympic champions.
No one gave him a bicycle at age three or anything like that. Worthington discovered ramps and jumps with a scooter at 12 and it wasn't until he was 19 that he switched to BMX thanks to his brother. "I had raced my scooter, but with a full-time job at the restaurant I could barely train. I needed something new, something fun to let off steam and that's how I started with BMX freestyle. It was impossible to imagine that he would end up being professional. Only when the sport entered the Games and the British Federation called me did I begin to understand that it could be something more than a hobby, "concludes the current Olympic champion, who already has the name of several restaurants in Barcelona. Somersaults in the air with his tiny bike and a good table, "the perfect combination".
- Articles Javier Sánchez