top of page

Decoding the Path to Paris with Connor Fields

It happens like clockwork every 4 years. Fans claiming certain riders should be on the U.S. BMX Olympic team or expressing their disappointment after their favorite rider wasn’t selected. The riders competing for the spots all know the exact details of how the team is selected, but it isn’t super easy to understand, and oftentimes, casual fans don’t know how it works. I will break it all down, that way, you know what races count, how the team comes together, and why certain riders did or did not make the team. With most of the major Olympic qualifying events set to take place between February and May of 2024, it is game time. 



Twelve. That is the number of American BMX racers who have ever qualified for an Olympic BMX team. If the Olympics were tomorrow, based on the criteria, that number would grow to fourteen. The United States has brought home 5 total Olympic medals in BMX racing, the second most. The only country with more is Colombia, with 6. 


The riders that have represented Team USA at the Olympics:


Women: 

Jill Kitner (2008) (Bronze medal)

Alise Willoughby (2012, 2016, 2021) (Silver Medal – 2016) 

Brooke Crain (2012, 2016) 

Felicia Stancil (2021)

Payton Ridenour (2021) 

*special nod to Arielle Martin who qualified for the London 2012 games but was injured in a training accident and unable to compete. 


Men: 

Kyle Bennett (2008)

Mike Day (2008) (Silver medal) 

Donny Robinson (2008) (Bronze medal)

David Herman (2012) 

Nic Long (2012, 2016) 

Connor Fields (2012, 2016, 2021) (Gold Medal – 2016) 

Corben Sharrah (2016, 2021) 


There is also always a reserve rider for the men and women in the case of a training injury to a rider who earned a spot. We always hope that it does not become a factor, but in 2012 it did, with Brooke Crain taking Arielle Martin’s (Verharren) spot on the gate due to injury. 


Between the inaugural Olympic games in 2008 and the 5th edition of the Olympic team in 2024 the process of how the team is selected has changed and evolved. For 2008, 2012, and 2016 the total number of entries were 32 men and 16 women, meaning a maximum team of 3 men and 2 women if a country qualified max quota. In 2021, they leveled the field to 24 men and 24 women, meaning a country could qualify up to 3 men and 3 women. 


The first step to qualifying is you have to earn your Country’s spot on the gate. Not every country will qualify to compete at the Olympics. After all, only 24 riders will take part. Country ranking will determine the number of spots each country gets.


The top 2 ranked countries qualify 3 riders, countries ranked 3, 4, and 5 qualify 2 riders, and there are 12 more countries that will each qualify 1 rider to make up the total number of 24 entries. 


Your country ranking is based on the accumulative total of points of the top 3 riders between July 2022 and May 2024. Different events count for different points totals, with the larger events, such as the UCI World Championships and UCI World Cups, offering the most points. Category 1 events, which is what most UCI Sundays are at USABMX races, are a small amount. Regular USABMX pro races do not have any effect whatsoever on Olympic ranking or qualification. Unfortunately for Kameron Larsen, doubling at the USABMX races in Phoenix and winning 3 of the first 4 USABMX rounds in 2024 does not help Olympic qualifying at all, as no UCI points are available at those events.


Here is the current country ranking points tables:


Women:

Men: 


Your country's total points are determined by the top 3 riders' accumulative score. For the U.S. women and men, here are the riders whose points are being counted after the last 2 years of earning points:  



What that means is that if another American rider who is NOT currently top 3 scores well at an event, their points will not come into effect unless they move up into the top 3 ranked Americans. Delaney Vaughn, Corben Sharrah, or Joey Leto could win a World Cup, and unless they bumped up to more points than Payton and Jeremy, it would not help Team USA’s overall score. 


Looking at the overall ranking, it looks like the U.S. women are in a good position to qualify 3 total spots. As long as Alise, Felicia, And Payton score decently well at the upcoming World Cups, they should safely earn the maximum quota of 3 spots. 


For the men, there is an extremely tight battle between spots 3-6. There will be a race within the race between the Americans, the Swiss, the Brits, and the Dutch. Only 3 of these 4 countries will earn 2 spots. Niek Kimmann, Kye Whyte, Simon Marquart, Cameron Wood, and the rest of the top 3 points earning riders from these 4 countries will all be battling for position at each event, but also for country ranking. Looking at how tight these points are, one good result could literally be the difference between qualifying a second spot for your country or not. 


The major races that will offer the biggest point hauls between now and when the end of the qualification period are: 


New Zealand World Cup 1 & 2

Australia World Cup 3 & 4 

Tulsa World Cup 5 & 6 

Rock Hill World Championships 


There are also a handful of UCI Sundays, a couple of HC events in Rock Hill, and the National Championships, which will offer smaller point hauls. 



How the U.S. team is selected 

If you want to read the full 10 page document, this is the link. I will break it down in simpler terms. 

 

There is an order of how the spots will be given out. 


Criteria 1: 

The first way someone can earn an automatic spot on the team is by landing on the podium at the UCI BMX World Championships in Rock Hill. If 3 country spots are earned, and the U.S. sweeps the podium, that is your Olympic team. If 2 spots are earned, and the U.S. sweeps the podium, the riders finishing 1st and 2nd get the spots. Highest result is the tiebreaker. 


If 1 country spot is earned, and 1 U.S. rider finishes on the podium at the Worlds, that is your representative. 


*I sit on USA Cycling Athlete Advisory Committee and I strongly advised against this as a criteria. BMX is too unpredictable and I don’t feel like one day’s result should dictate who makes the team. It is an unlikely scenario, but let’s say the U.S. men earn one spot, largely off the back of Cameron Wood, who scored the most points. Let’s say Cameron makes the main at the Worlds along with one other American rider. For the sake of argument, let’s say that this rider is not Kamren Larsen or Jeremy Smith and therefore did not contribute to country qualifying. This rider only made the main because there was a 5 rider crash in the semi’s and he got up first to get himself into the main. Then, in the main, this rider is running 8th, and Wood is running 2nd. Wood goes for the win like he did in Phoenix at the USABMX race and the move doesn’t stick, taking down 5 riders, Now, the U.S. rider in 8th goes around the carnage, ending up 3rd, and taking the Olympic spot away from Wood. Now the U.S. does not have it’s best representative at the Olympics. 


An unlikely scenario, but not completely unfathomable, which is why I advised against it when asked my opinion. *


If spots remain after the Worlds in Rock Hill and the first criteria, we enter Criteria 2. 


Criteria 2: 

If spots remain after criteria one, then the highest ranked rider according to the USA Cycling points table. 


What this means is if no riders podium at the 2024 worlds, the highest ranked man and women will automatically be named to the team. Hypothetically if one rider, say for instance Alise Willoughby podiums in Rock Hill, then the 2nd spot for women will go to the next highest ranked rider. Currently that is Felicia Stancil 


Here are the points tables and list of events that count for ranking. Keep in mind, NONE of the races at regular USABMX races or USABMX UCI Sundays count for the USA Olympic team selection. Only World Cups, World Championships, and 2024 Continental Championships, which are in Bogota Colombia this year will count. 



Points are only awarded for main event finishes. Here are the current rankings for men and women: 



For the women, there are 5 riders who have earned points. Alise and Felicia have set themselves up nicely after a strong 2023, and there will be a battle between Payton, Daleny, and Lexis for that third spot in the ranking. 


For the men, Cameron Wood is the only male who has made a final. What that means is that if no one podiums at the Worlds, as it stands, the spot is his. What that also means is if 2 spots are earned, a rider like Kamren Larsen, Joey Leto, Corben Sharrah, Jeremy Smith, or Anthony Bucardo could potentially send themselves to the Olympics just by making a single World Cup main if no one else does. 


Criteria 3: 

If any spots remain, after criteria 1 (Worlds Podium) and criteria 2 (highest ranking) then it comes down to a committee selection. The committee is made up of USA Cycling staff and they will look at numbers, data, past experience, and results. As an example, if they had to choose between Corben Sharrah and Kamren Larsen they would have to take into account the fact that Corben has raced multiple Olympics and has experience, however he turns 32 this year and will not still be competing in 2028 for the next games. Kamren is young and does not have the experience, but they could send him to gain experience in 2024 in preparation for a 2028 and potential 2032 run. All things that have to be considered in this situation, and unfortunately, unless that selected rider wins there will always be a case of “what if”.  


To game play criteria 3, if no U.S. women podium the 2024 Worlds, Alise would earn her spot via criteria 2, then the final 2 spots would be nominated via a committee. If the men earn 2 spots, and Cam Wood podiums the 2024 Worlds the highest ranking man after Cameron would get the second spot. If none scored any points it would go to committee selection. 


As it stands today, the 2024 U.S. Olympic team would be: 


Alise Willoughby

Felicia Stancil

Payton Ridenour (assuming the tiebreaker for an equal result is most recent and she gets the committee nod based on previous Olympic Experience)


Cameron Wood

Kamren Larsen (assuming he gets the coach’s selection based on recent results domestically and Pan American Games Gold) 


BUT, a lot of racing between now and June, when the team will be named, and anything can happen! 


I hope this gives you a better idea of what to watch for and how the team selection works. Go team USA! 

907 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page