Tokyo Olympics: Bethany Shriever & Kye Whyte win historic medals in BMX racing

Tokyo Olympics: Team GB’s Bethany Shriever wins gold in BMX final
Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button and online; Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra and Sounds; live text and video clips on BBC Sport website and app.

Britain’s Bethany Shriever won gold in the women’s BMX racing final, moments after team-mate Kye Whyte claimed the nation’s first Olympic medal in the event with silver in the men’s.

Shriever, 22, was lifted into the air by Whyte as the pair celebrated their historic achievements in Tokyo.

After needing crowdfunding to be able to go to Japan, Shriever held off two-time champion Mariana Pajon to win.

In the men’s, Whyte was 0.114 seconds behind Dutch rider Niek Kimmann.

The pair retained their focus and composure after both finals were delayed by serious crashes.

American rider Connor Fields, who was the favourite in the men’s race, was taken off the track on a stretcher and then to hospital after a horrible crash in the third and final heat of his semi-final.

An American team spokesperson later said Fields was “awake” and awaiting further evaluation, although the extent of his injuries was still not clear.

Australia’s Saya Sakakibara also needed medical attention after crashing in the women’s semi-finals.

‘I was almost crying at Kye’s silver’

Shriever was regarded as Great Britain BMX’s next breakout star after winning the junior world title in 2017 but left the national set-up later that year after UK Sport said – based on results at senior level – it would only fund male riders.

She chose to go solo and, as well as launching the crowdfunder in 2019, also worked part-time as a teaching assistant to help fund herself.

Later in 2019, she returned to British Cycling with UK Sport’s more flexible approach to funding allowing it to invest in her.

Her effort and commitment was rewarded by a stunning ride in Tokyo that saw her end the reign of Colombia’s Pajon, described by the Briton as her childhood idol.

“Honestly, I’m in shock. To even be here is an achievement in itself,” said Shriever, who won all three of her semi-final races to qualify for the final.

“To make a final is another achievement in itself. To win a medal, let alone a gold medal, I’m over the moon.

“Winning a medal wasn’t my goal – results are out of our control. To keep to my routine and keep cool around the track, I managed to hold and earn the win. It is crazy.”

Great Britain's BMX riders
Whyte and Shriever celebrated together after winning medals on their Olympic debuts

Both Shriever and 21-year-old Whyte were making their Olympic debuts in the Japanese capital, with Shriever saying she took extra inspiration from seeing her team-mate’s success moments earlier.

There were jubilant scenes as the pair celebrated their success together, Shriever then dropping to the track in exhaustion.

“I was watching him as I was going up. I was almost crying because he got a silver. I had to keep[ my cool and reset and just dig in. I gave it everything,” said Shriver, who won all three of her semi-final races.

“I had nothing left, the lactic acid was crazy. I gave it absolutely everything I had.”

Whyte’s journey to Olympic silver

Tokyo Olympics: Kye Whyte wins GB’s first BMX medal claiming silver in a thrilling final

Whyte has fought back from serious injury to earn his place on the Olympic podium.

The rider arrived in Tokyo ranked 12th in the world, having finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships, but was unable to ride the Olympic test event in 2019 because of injury.

“The medal means everything to me,” he said.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is hard to get to the Olympics in the first place. To do well and get a medal, it is special.”

Dubbed the Prince of Peckham, the Londoner looked stunned as he celebrated with his family back home on a video screen at trackside.

Whyte later thanked his family – including his brother Tre, who won World Championship bronze in 2014 before retiring in 2020 – and members at the Peckham BMX Club for staying up in the early hours of the morning to watch his success.

“I reckon Trey might cry. My dad definitely did cry and my mum cried too. When I get back it will be crazy,” said Whyte, who said the heavy medal was “aching” his neck.

Former British BMX rider Shanaze Reade, who finished sixth in the London 2012 final, said the pair had put in the “performances of their lives”.

“It is a credit to them both. To go to your first Olympic Games is nerve-wracking; to go to your first Olympic Games and actually win it and get a silver medal is unbelievable,” said Reade, who is an analyst for BBC television.

“I always say a happy head is fast legs – both of those guys seemed so happy, so relaxed and took it in all stride. Their performances showed that.”

Supersonic Shriever impresses rock’n’roll star Gallagher

Even though Shriever’s success came at 04:45 BST, it did not stop former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher showing his new-found love for the BMX rider.

Sam Quek, the former Great Britain hockey player turned BBC television presenter, said Shriever had “proved the doubters wrong”.

Fellow cyclist Geraint Thomas, a two-time track cycling gold medallist, also paid tribute to Shriever and Whyte’s achievements.

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