Tokyo Olympics: BMX history for GB as Beth Shriever grabs gold and Kye Whyte claims silver

The pair delivered one of Team GB’s moments and enduring images of these Games, Whyte hoisting Shriever into the air in scenes of celebration

James Toney
Tokyo
Friday 30 July 2021 17:47
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Bethany Shriever wins Gold in women's Bmx on Olympic debut

It seems BMX medals are like London buses: you wait years for one and then two come along in 11 minutes.

Beth Shriever’s gold and Kye Whyte’s silver delivered one of Team GB’s moments and enduring images of these Games, the latter hoisting the former into the air in scenes of celebration.

BMX is the ultimate risk-and-reward sport, where the difference between champ and chump is razor-thin and a thrill is followed by a spill as sure as night follows day.

Shriever, 22, knows all about this runaway rollercoaster and has the scars to prove it. Three years ago she was teaching four-year-olds the alphabet; on Friday, a freshly minted Olympic gold around her neck, she couldn’t find the words to sum up her fizzing emotions.

In 2018 British Cycling’s women’s BMX programme stood dormant, its funding axed and its medal potential minimal.

Shriever had to initially crowdfund to compete in competitions before officials spotted her raw potential and dragged her back into the fold, National Lottery funding decisively fuelling this campaign.

Her coaches hoped she could qualify for Tokyo and make the final.  She did that alright – and then only went and won it, her legs turning to jelly as she crossed the line, live on Eurosport and discovery+.

“Right now, it just feels like I’m floating around,” she admitted, her phone pinging with a congratulation messages, including a tweet from Liam Gallagher. “It’s a bit surreal, it’s a bit mad. I hope it shows to people you can get somewhere in BMX.

“Kye was saying we’ve created history, inspiring the next generation, inspiring more girls to get involved.

“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.

“I had nothing left at the end, I left it all on the track. I couldn’t even walk or stand up out there. The lactic acid in my legs, I’ve never felt anything like that before ever.”

Whyte and Shrieve celebrate with their Tokyo haul

Encouraged by her younger brother Luke, Shriever started in the sport aged nine at her local club in Braintree, Essex, and quickly graduated through the ranks to become world junior champion aged 17.

But she became disillusioned when the women’s programme was axed post-Rio, admitting she thought her Olympic moment had passed.

“British Cycling had belief in me and gave me that National Lottery funding, I wouldn’t be in this position if they hadn’t,” she added.

“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.

“When I was watching Kye get that silver I really had to hold it back because I was about to cry. I had to focus on myself. It’s if you start letting things in, that’s when it all goes wrong.”

Whyte, 21, is a kid from the tower-block estates of Peckham, who grew up in a BMX-mad family and benefitted from sports funding associated with the London 2012 Games.

He was a fitting person to win Britain’s first BMX medal, even if Shriever, who he has known since she was 12, sort of trumped him just a few minutes later.

“I’m more happy for her than I am for me, that girl puts in some serious graft,” he said. “We went to a training camp in America and she was training so hard she dislocated her shoulder and needed an operation – that’s how much she wants it.

The medal-winners have known each other since they were 12

“She’s rapid and she’s gone and proven it. I knew she was going to win, the way she was riding the track, no one was catching her. You don’t see a silver medallist doing that

“She’s a great girl and she deserves that gold medal because her skills are unbelievable.

“Training with Beth is stressful. She cries, throws tantrums and gets angry very quick but she’s a wonderful woman, a great training partner and now she’s the best in the world and I’m not far behind.

“If there was 10 more yards, maybe I would have had a gold too, I’ll accept the silver though and change it up in Paris.”

Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, The Streaming Home of the Olympics

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