Essex BMX star wins Olympic gold
- Credit: PA
Team GB BMX star Beth Shriever has one the country's first ever gold medal in the sport at the Olympic games.
Ms Shriever, 22, grew up in Finchingfield, and was part of the BMX club at Braintree.
It was a tough journey for the gold medallist to the games with her fundraising taken away by UK Sport funding, a cancelled holiday of a lifetime and a succession of injuries.
It was a nervous wait for the cyclist as rain delayed the semi final for 45 minutes before Ms Shriever was able to hold off defending champion, Mariana Pajon, of Colombia, in the final to take the gold.
She collapsed on the track in a mixture of triumph and relief before being hoisted aloft by team-mate Kye Whyte, who minutes earlier had claimed Britain’s first BMX racing Olympic medal with a silver in his event.
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Ms Shriever 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 Ms Shriever’s mother Kate, who watched the race with husband Paul, sons Noah and Luke, and the rider’s partner Brynley.
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“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.
Her 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.
While Ms 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.”