Charlotte Worthington will head to the Paris Olympics as reigning champion in the women’s BMX freestyle, but her journey since taking a thrilling gold in Tokyo has been a bit of a rollercoaster.

Worthington catapulted herself to overnight fame when she became the first woman to deliver a backflip 360 in competition and win the first ever Olympic gold in the sport’s debut three years ago.

The Mancunian is used to looking at the world upside down but what followed flipped everything on its head for Worthington, who had gone to Japan without much pressure or expectation after a rapid rise for a late starter.

Christmas Package 2021
Charlotte Worthington took Olympic gold after becoming the first woman to pull off a backflip 360 in competition (Marijan Murat/PA)

“I was a total underdog,” she said. “I’d just kept saying ‘yes’ to cool opportunities and working hard and it snowballed and the next thing you know I was Olympic champion and it was kind of crazy.”

What followed was a whirlwind. Worthington competed throughout 2022 but struggled to find the same joy in her sport.

“It was a confusing time,” Worthington said. “I absolutely love BMX and I love what I do and who I do it with but at that time, I really didn’t enjoy it and it was very confusing and stressful…

“There was a point where I just couldn’t look at my bike…I couldn’t go to the skatepark and enjoy that with my friends. It would send me into an anxiety panic hole and I could only go when I felt inspired to do so.”

Worthington stepped back from competition as she tried to rediscover her love of the sport.

“I had to strip it right back,” Worthington said. “When did I first go to a skatepark? I went on a scooter and then riding skateboards because I saw my older brother doing it.

“What did I like about that? I liked that it wasn’t school and there was no agenda, really simple things.

“Where did I find my buzz? I found my buzz from learning and progressing and the community was a huge part of that as well.

“So I stripped it back, I would go with my skateboard with no agenda, no expectations and as soon as I could feel that little spark, I could hone in on that and that’s what I was doing it for.”

Worthington returned at the UCI world championships in Glasgow last August, finishing seventh as Olympic silver medallist Hannah Roberts claimed gold.

Since then, Worthington only competed in a couple of events in Japan and China before Olympic qualifying, where she finished 12th in Shanghai in May and then 10th in Budapest last month – results that left her with a nervous wait before confirmation of her place.

After all she has been through, Worthington will head to her second Olympics a more-rounded athlete.

“I’ve learnt so much about myself,” she said. “I think all sport will eventually shine a mirror on you. ‘Know thyself’ is the best way to get through life.

“I’ve definitely learned the reasons I like the sport and the things I don’t like, the situations I thrive in and the situations I don’t.”

Competition has stepped up considerably since Tokyo, particularly with the rise of the Chinese – who occupied every place from second to sixth in the standings in Glasgow.

Team GB BMX Freestyle Announcement – Paris Olympics 2024 – RAF Shawbury
Charlotte Worthington will compete at her second Olympics this summer (Ian Hodgson/PA)

Her status as reigning champion means the spotlight will shine on Worthington again in Paris, but that does not have to mean pressure.

“I’m still learning how to manage it,” she said. “No one else has been in our shoes ever.

“I was the first BMX freestyle Olympic champion and no one is going to take that medal off my shelf. I’ve got it, I was the first ever. Now it’s a blank slate.”