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BMX history makers Beth Shriever and Kye Whyte hope to inspire a generation of Londoners after Olympic double

·4 min read
 (Jeremy Selwyn)
(Jeremy Selwyn)

Britain had never won an Olympic medal in BMX and now, in the space of 10 giddy minutes, it had two.

And both belonged to a pocket of London: first a silver from Peckham courtesy of Kye Whyte and then gold 12 miles down the road in Leytonstone for Beth Shriever.

Training partners from the age of 12, in the aftermath of jubilant celebrations Shriever’s legs gave way – the lactic acid build-up worse than she had ever known – and Whyte was there to pick her up.

It was an apt analogy for the pair, Whyte often the listening ear and calming influence on his 22-year-old teammate, who used to struggle with the big occasion, often reduced to tears.

On the biggest stage of all, Shriever didn’t put a pedal wrong for two full days, winning both her heats, her semi-final and then the final by the width of a BMX bike tyre from two-time Olympic champion Mariana Pajon.

In a sport with crashes front, middle and back, it defied not just expectations but the laws of probability too. And it was vindication for British Cycling performance director Stephen Park.

When UK Sport cut funding to the BMX female programme, he agreed with other parts of British Cycling to siphon money away in order to bring Shriever back into the programme from a spell as a teaching assistant in Essex.

It is a decision which paid off in some style, likewise the other cycling area to have lost funding – the men’s mountain bike – where Tom Pidcock had won gold earlier in the week. Shriever’s gold means Britain has won gold now in every Olympic cycling genre.

She was as disbelieving of the medal as she was by a message of congratulations from Liam Gallagher. Asked if she was an Oasis fan, she said not, quickly changing her tune on hearing of the former front man’s praise on social media.

“I had nothing left at the end, I left it all on the track,” she said, her wobbly legs having just about recovered. “I couldn’t even walk… I couldn’t even stand up. The lactic acid in my legs, I’ve never felt anything like that before ever.”

Whyte kept on reminding her that they were history makers, the joint ambition now that they can inspire others in London and elsewhere in the country to follow in their footsteps. He also declared himself “more happy for her than I am for me”, and the sentiment seemed totally genuine.

Shriever is currently the sole female rider in the British BMX racing set-up, and Whyte said of his training partner: “Training with Beth is stressful because she’s a women. She cries, throws tantrums and gets angry very quick but she’s a wonderful women and great training partner. Training with her has been great, it’s taught me to be respectful in front of women. She’s the best in the world right now.”

Their respective families showed up briefly on the screens at the venue. Whyte was too emotional to even speak as he saw footage of family and friends gathered in the Peckham club where he had learned to ride, children as young as seven among the revellers allowed to stay up late into the night. Shriever, meanwhile, could not hear her family but could see the emotion etched on their faces.

 (Jeremy Selwyn)
(Jeremy Selwyn)

It was her brother Luke who had got her into the sport through a friend at school whose dad coached at Braintree BMX. She climbed up the ranks through regional, national and European level to being crowned junior world champion four years to the day of her Olympic gold.

While it was her legs that did the work, it was her head that held the secret to her success, having worked closely with a psychologist to overcome her racing demons.

In the past, she was beset by nagging thoughts: who was on her outside, how to tackle a specific jump, what if it all goes wrong? But that is, in essence, BMX racing

The hope is their results will create an influx into the sport. Shriever’s own message was simple: “Just do it. If you commit to something you can literally have a gold medal around your neck. Just commit and have some fun and get involved.”

Read More

BMX Olympic glory for Team GB as Beth Shriever wins gold medal and Kye Whyte takes silver

Beth Shriever claims BMX gold on mixed day for Britain

Tom Pidcock wins dominant gold for Team GB in Tokyo Olympics cross-country mountain bike race

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