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Olympic star’s bumpy road to BMX glory: Gold medal-winning hero Beth Shriever

Team GB’s BMX gold medallist Beth Shriever’s ascent to the top of her sport after a nerve-shredding final today marks an extraordinary journey to Tokyo 2020 came having been forced to raise £50,000 to even get there.

The east Londoner, 22, started the sport on a second hand bike with borrowed kit after her school urged her to ‘give it a go’ and this morning she became a household name in Britain.

The victory caps a rollercoaster journey for Shriever, who left the GB setup to go solo in 2019 and aimed to raise £50,000 via crowdfunding to enable her to even compete after Team GB decided only to fund male riders. She also worked as a teaching assistant in a nursery to raise money for her training and trip.

And as well as the financial hurdles to overcome, Shriever’s path to becoming an Olympian was hampered by eye-watering injuries, breaking the same wrist three times  and suffered a tibia and fibula fracture, which required metal plates to be inserted into her leg – only for the procedure to have to be repeated some 18 months later after another crash. 

Due to Covid-19 Miss Shriever’s ‘tight family’ group of her parents and boyfriend Brynley who were  watching live on Friday morning from their home near Chelmsford in Essex.

And she was cheered on by her training partner Kye Whyte, who grabbed silver in the race before, leaving her crying tears of joy for her friend as she stood on the start line of the biggest race of her life. 

Great Britain’s Bethany Shriever collects her Gold medal for the Cycling BMX Racing at the Ariake Urban Sports Park on the seventh day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Bethany Shriever with her boyfriend Brynley, who has been a big support to Team GB's BMX star

Bethany Shriever with her boyfriend Brynley, who has been a big support to Team GB’s BMX star

Beth is lifted by her friend Kye Whyte, who won silver in the men’s BMX the race before

Beth on her bike with her brother at home in Essex, where he sporting life began with a borrowed bike

Beth on her bike with her brother at home in Essex, where he sporting life began with a borrowed bike

Speaking today after getting gold, she said: ‘It’s a bit mad, I haven’t even spoken to my family yet. I can’t wait to speak to all them and see how they’re feeling. I saw them at the end there getting all emotional and it’s just amazing, I can’t believe it.

‘I had nothing left at the end. I left it all on the track. Right now, it feels like I’m floating around.’

She added she had prepared mentally for the race.

‘I’ve kept the same mentality, the same process throughout on the track and it’s just worked. I didn’t let things get to me, I stayed calm. I knew what I had to do and just stuck to my process and it worked, she said.

‘I’ve done a lot of work with my psychologist to be prepared for this because I did struggle a few years ago with my head. I’ve got a great thing going with him and without him I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. When I was watching Kye get that silver I really had to hold that back because I was about to cry.’ 

Her mum Kate told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘To win gold is just a dream come true. I think it being quick is quite good, the risks are quite high. We are nervous for her safety, we just want her to get round without coming off.

‘It was emotional, there was not a dry eye in the house. She literally put everything into it, she knew there was someone behind her. She gave it absolutely everything she had.

‘I think it was all worth it when she got the letter to say she was going to the Olympics. Anything after that was a bonus, she just wanted to race and enjoy the experience. She has loved every minute of it. We all knew no matter what the outcome was we would be 100 percent proud of her.

‘The only time [she needed pushing] was after she broke her tibia and fibula twice. Her first session back after the first break, she landed a jump and on impact the metal rod in her leg bent and shattered her leg again.

‘A lot of people had written off her at that point, she was a really good rider but to break her leg twice and be out of the game for about 18 months, but she was determined afterwards.

‘Although she is the only female on team GB for British BMX the support she has from Kye is just a lovely thing. She has been so happy the last couple of weeks and the whole experience has been so amazing for her’.

Bethany Shriever of Team Great Britain crosses the finish line as she celebrates winning a gold medal ahead of Merel Smulders of Team Netherlands

Bethany Shriever of Team Great Britain crosses the finish line as she celebrates winning a gold medal ahead of Merel Smulders of Team Netherlands

Due to Covid-19 Miss Shriever's 'tight family' group of her parents and boyfriend Brynley who were watching live on Friday morning from their home near Chelmsford in Essex.

Due to Covid-19 Miss Shriever's 'tight family' group of her parents and boyfriend Brynley who were watching live on Friday morning from their home near Chelmsford in Essex.

Due to Covid-19 Miss Shriever’s ‘tight family’ group of her parents and boyfriend Brynley who were watching live on Friday morning from their home near Chelmsford in Essex.

Ms Shriever revealed recently that it was her daughter’s school had recommended she ‘give BMX a go’ at a local club, where they had been loaned equipment.

‘We went down on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening, borrowed a bike and Beth went round and just absolutely loved it,’ she said.

‘So we decided at that point we’d just buy a cheap bike and see how it goes, just doing club races.

‘She started off on a second hand bike, with a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads, at Braintree and it just sort of snowballed from there.’ 

A succession of injuries, the withdrawal of UK Sport funding, a cancelled ‘holiday of a lifetime’ for her family and the trials of training in lockdown were all erased as the 22-year-old, from Leytonstone, east London, won her race in Tokyo.

She followed compatriot Kye Whyte, who had landed silver in the men's event moments earlier

She followed compatriot Kye Whyte, who had landed silver in the men’s event moments earlier

Bethany Shriever pulled off a stunning win in the BMX racing to claim gold for Team GB

Bethany Shriever pulled off a stunning win in the BMX racing to claim gold for Team GB 

She went head to head with Colombia's Mariana Pajon and pulled off an upset to prevail

She went head to head with Colombia’s Mariana Pajon and pulled off an upset to prevail 

Shriever had collapsed to the ground after her win, crying: 'I can't feel my legs'

Shriever had collapsed to the ground after her win, crying: ‘I can’t feel my legs’

After even more tension during a 45-minute rain delay before the semi-final, Shriever held off defending champion Mariana Pajon, of Colombia, in a desperate finish in the final to take the gold.

She collapsed on the track in a mixture of triumph and relief before being hoisted aloft by jubilant team-mate Kye Whyte, the 21-year-old who minutes earlier had claimed Britain’s first BMX racing Olympic medal with a silver in his event.

Shriever gave Britain its sixth gold medal of the Games, keeping it in sixth place in the medals table, after a silver and bronze in the pool for Duncan Scott and Luke Greenbank, and a bronze for the men’s rowing eight.

Her event was watched by her delighted family at home in Essex, who – following a nerve-shredding race – were able to reflect on the gold medallist’s long and bumpy ride to Tokyo after she first got on a BMX bike around the age of eight.

‘We were screaming at the TV saying ‘Keep pedalling! Keep pedalling!” said Shriever’s mother Kate, who watched the race with husband Paul, sons Noah and Luke, and the rider’s partner Brynley.

‘It was quite tight but it’s just amazing that she’s done it. We’re all over the moon. She’s just such a lovely, caring and determined person. She’s had so many injuries – it’s quite a dangerous sport – so she really deserves this.

‘We knew she was relaxed and happy. She seemed really in tune with riding and she loved the track. But with BMX it’s anyone’s game, and anything can happen.

‘It’s been a very long night. We were all up at 2am for the semi-final, and then the rain delay happened, but we’re just so really proud of Beth and very happy for her.’

Mrs Shriever said her daughter had taken to BMX racing from a young age, starting in regional events, followed by nationals and then European championships.

‘We’d drive her to Manchester every other weekend after she made it into a young talent team,’ she told the PA news agency.

Shriever’s path to becoming an Olympian was dotted with injuries. She broke a wrist three times, and suffered a tibia and fibula fracture, which required metal plates to be inserted into her leg – only for the procedure to have to be repeated some 18 months later after another crash.

‘She’s also got hypermobility, so her joints dislocate easily. She dislocated her shoulder and needed pretty major surgery at the beginning of this year, so that wasn’t that long ago,’ her mother added.

Kye Whyte's proud and tearful parents and brothers shortly after he won his silver

Kye Whyte’s proud and tearful parents and brothers shortly after he won his silver 

Tre Whyte holds his younger brother Kye in hospital after he was born prematurely

Tre Whyte holds his younger brother Kye in hospital after he was born prematurely

Both brothers have excelled on BMXs but it is Kye who has made it to Olympic silver

Both brothers have excelled on BMXs but it is Kye who has made it to Olympic silver

Shriever said she was forced to overcome her raw emotion to focus on her own race after watching Whyte claim a medal

Shriever said she was forced to overcome her raw emotion to focus on her own race after watching Whyte claim a medal

While Shriever had earlier become the flagbearer for women’s BMX in Britain – she was junior world champion in 2017 – her progress suffered a setback when UK Sport decided to fund only male BMX riders following the Rio Olympics.

‘She moved home and got a part-time job. We supported her for a couple of years and took her to all the world cups and everything,’ Mrs Shriever said.

Her daughter’s plight was eventually eased when British Cycling stepped in with funding, but the onset of the coronavirus pandemic was another blow.

‘She moved to Manchester two years ago, just before Covid, but then had to move home for about seven months when lockdown started,’ said Mrs Shriever, an office manager, whose husband was temporarily out of work due to the pandemic.

‘British Cycling sent weights and gym equipment so she could train at home. She’s got a really good work ethic with training, and worked really hard in lockdown and didn’t really stop.

‘The difficult part was not racing for 18 months. That was hard, because you don’t really know where you are compared to the other riders.

‘There wasn’t a proper race until they went to Verona in Italy last month, and at least that gave her confidence.

‘The only downside was we had a big family holiday planned for Tokyo, but that had to be scrapped. We’re really sad we’re not there with her, but at least the technology has helped stay in touch.’

When Kye Whyte pressed his front wheel against the starting gate before launching down the ramp at Ariake Urban Park in Tokyo on Thursday it was a landmark moment for a south-London BMX racing dynasty.

The 21-year-old is the youngest of three brothers to emerge from the renowned Peckham BMX Club, co-founded by their father Nigel and which is widely respected in the community for helping steer youth away from crime.

He said: ‘Growing up in Peckham, I was known as the wheely kid or the BMX kid, not part of (the gang culture),’ he said.

‘BMX gave me respect for my elders and for myself,’ Whyte says. ‘It’s kept me on the straight and narrow.’

Formed in 2004 at a dilapidated track wedged between block of flats in an area blighted by gang crime, the Peckham club has become a magnet for kids seeking a way to keep off the troubled streets.

It is where Kye honed his talent for the adrenaline-fuelled sport of BMX racing and which he now hopes will deliver an Olympic medal to add to the club’s impressive honours board.

Moving to British Cycling’s Manchester hub in 2018 meant a new ultra-disciplined lifestyle.

‘At first I didn’t enjoy it at all. I had a bad attitude to training, was late all the time, didn’t want to train, I was not a good athlete when I joined,’ he said.

‘In London I trained once a week, slept at 3am. When I started training in Manchester I was knackered before I even got on the bike. But when I realised that all the training was making me faster it clicked in my head and I thought this is my job and there’s no point wishing I was back in London’.

Beth and Kye made BMX history for Great Britain on Friday morning as they delivered gold and silver medals at the Ariake Urban Sports Park.

Moments after Whyte won Britain’s first medal in the event since its introduction to the Olympic programme in 2008, taking silver behind Dutchman Niek Kimmann, Shriever led almost from start to finish to claim a superb gold in the women’s race.

As the 22-year-old collapsed in tears a jubilant Whyte scooped her up and held her aloft in celebration.

‘I’m more happy for her than I am for me,’ Whyte said. ‘That girl puts in some serious serious graft.’

Both Londoners have taken a long road to get to this point.

Whyte, 21, grew up in south London, where his father was a co-founder of the Peckham BMX Club which sought to steer youngsters away from gang culture and crime.

Shriever, from Leytonstone, dropped out of British Cycling’s programme in 2017 after UK Sport had announced there would be no funding for women’s BMX in this Olympic cycle.

But her coaches saw the potential in the 2017 junior world champion and, at a time when they were keen to diversify Britain’s medal opportunities, persuaded the agency to let them reassign funds.

It was still an uphill battle – Shriever worked as a teaching assistant and also used crowdfunding to keep going before being brought back on to the programme in the summer of 2019 – but on Friday the journey ended with Olympic gold.

The only woman in Britain’s elite programme was the class of the Olympic field. BMX can be an unpredictable affair, a game of jeopardy as British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park described it, but Shriever made it look simple.

Having won all three races in her semi-final, she almost led from the start of the final and held off a late charge from defending champion Mariana Pajon of Colombia down the finishing straight to win by nine hundredths of a second.

‘I’m just in bits,’ the Londoner said. ‘I tried my hardest out there today and to be rewarded with a gold medal is honestly mind-blowing. I kept my cool today, kept it simple, and it worked. I’m over the moon.’

Shriever’s gold came just after Whyte had raced to silver to secure Britain’s first BMX medal.

Having suffered with slow starts in qualifying and during the semi-final, Whyte nailed it in the final and went into the first corner in second behind Kimmann – racing only days after hitting an official on track in a frightening crash – and held station to the finish.

‘I just came out of the gate, and I didn’t expect it but in the back of my head I kept telling myself I was going to get a medal,’ Whyte said.

‘I didn’t deserve it any more than any of the other riders but I put my head to it and I got a medal.’

Whyte began his celebrations by a TV screen showing a link to the party taking place back in Peckham.

‘I couldn’t even speak,’ he said. ‘You know when you get that little crying voice? I couldn’t speak holding back the tears.’

This double success, following on from Tom Pidcock’s mountain bike gold on Monday, gives British Cycling quick results in its bid to look beyond the velodrome at these Games.

The bid to diversify goes beyond mere medals. Mountain biking and BMX – both the racing and freestyle which will make its Olympic debut on Saturday – offer an opportunity to expand to new audiences and new communities.

Liam Gallagher helped them do just that, with the former Oasis frontman posting on Twitter: ‘BMX racing at the Olympics is blowing my mind’ and ‘Bethany Shriever what a ledge well done LG x’




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