It was another Olympic Games cycling story that transcended the sport: 22-year-old Bethany Shriever who overcame the odds and lack of funding to win gold by 0.09 seconds in the women's BMX Racing event in Tokyo. Alongside teammate Kye Whyte — who won silver in the men's race — Shriever became one of Great Britain's first BMX Olympic medallists, and even ex-Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher described her as a "ledge."
Her celebration with Whyte went viral on social media and Shriever's journey to Tokyo became a focal point of her gold-medal story. After UK Sport said in 2017 it would only fund male riders for the Tokyo 2020 cycle, Shriever left the national squad and had to forge her own path.
That year, she was junior world champion but found herself working part-time as a teaching assistant to fund her BMX career after UK Sport cut funding for women's BMX following the Rio Olympics based on senior riders' results. While the men continued to receive support, Shriever was left to raise money via crowdfunding to find the £50,000 needed to cover expenses such as travel to races to reach her Olympic goal.
In 2019 she told the BBC: "My rivals who are all around the world are doing this full time and are funded, so I'm the only one who's not really getting much help," adding "It is worrying and I don't want my dream to compete at Tokyo to be taken away just because of money."
Shriever eventually raised the funds and, after being recognised by Stephen Park at British Cycling that same year, she now trains in Manchester as part of the national team — although she is the only female on the BMX squad.
After reports emerged that Shriever was still without support or funding from the national federation, Park was keen to set the record straight. In response to a Tweet which claimed: "An Olympic gold medalist who had to crowdfund her own way to Tokyo because UK Sport chose to only fund" he replied:
"Thanks for the support, however, your facts are misleading. BC made the case to UKS [UK Sport] for them to allow us to diversify existing funding to support MTB & BMX disciplines not funded late 2016/2017. UKS accepted the case and those disciplines have been supported since, inc[luding] Beth.
"All UKS WCP's [World Class Programme -ed] are contributory programmes one way or another. Some sports are cheaper, some athletes live more frugal lives, but dont[sic] for a second think WCP's are fully funded. What they do is underpin the basics and make it possible," Park continued.
"Few if any medals will be won without [UK Sport or National Lottery] support - just getting the athletes and support to the Games is a significant cost - other than Team GB, this is generally WCP funded."
Shriever told BBC Sport: "For Sparky to see my potential and give me a chance to be a full-time athlete shot me in the right direction. Look where I am now."
Shriever may have received partial funding from UK Sport since 2019, but she still spent the period between 2017 and 2019 without support from British Cycling or UK Sport. She has also overcome multiple injuries in the lead-up to the Games including two leg fractures, no competition in 18 months and a dislocated shoulder.
Both Shriever and Park hope that her gold medal ride inspires more people to take up the discipline with Shriever telling the BBC: "I hope it does more for the sport now and in Great Britain. I hope we get more girls involved, and boys as well."
Thanks for the support, however your facts are misleading. BC made the case to UKS for them to allow us to diversify existing funding to support MTB & BMX disciplines not funded late 2016/2017. UKS accepted the case and those disciplines have been supported since, inc Beth...😉 https://t.co/kBSdt6IF0ZJuly 30, 2021
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