UK Sport, the agency that determines funding in Britain, defunded women BMX riders after Rio Olympics in 2016.
Bethany Shriever was shocked when UK Sport cut funding to woman BMX riders four years ago, diverting the money to just the men. Four years later, she clinched gold at the Tokyo Olympics and is the only BMX rider from Britain holding the top prize. Kye Whyte won silver for the UK in the men's event. Bethany Shriever had to turn to crowdfunding to keep her dream alive when UK Sport, the government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport in the country, cut funding for women BMX riders. The 22-year-old athlete launched a fundraiser campaign to help her train and go to the summer Olympics in Tokyo. Shriever managed to raise $70,000 and it has aided her secure gold in women's BMX racing. "Them cutting the funding just for girls did make feel like 'are we not as good as the boys,'" she said.
"It's a bit surreal, it's a bit mad, I haven't even spoken to my family yet," said Shriever after the win, reported Sky News. "I can't wait to speak to all of them and see how they're feeling. I saw them at the end there getting all emotional and it's just amazing, I can't believe it." Shriever took an early lead, getting ahead of the pack by the first bend. She then led throughout before fending off a late charge from defending champion Mariana Pajon of Colombia. Dutch rider Merel Smulders came third and secured the bronze medal.
The news of the funding being withdrawn hit Shriever hard. "It was such a shock and just so out of the blue," said Shriever. "We were like, 'what do we do and how can we make it work?' When I was younger British Cycling took me everywhere and paid for everything so it was a worry."
"When the funding was withdrawn, a couple of years ago, she made the decision she wanted to continue on the journey of BMX," said Kate. "So she decided to get a job part time in the school and fund her BMX part-time and work part-time." When the family learned they needed more money than her part-time job as a teaching assistant could provide, they decided to start a fundraising campaign to get her to the Olympics. "We did a Go Fund page to assist with that because it was very expensive for about two years," said Kate. Shriever has a bike sponsor but didn't have money for the travel and races. "That's difficult and it's been a little bit stressful," Shriever told BBC.
Bethany Shriever's mother, Kate, cheered her on from home and said it was "really tough" to not be in Tokyo and watch her compete. "We were screaming at the TV saying 'Keep pedalling! Keep pedalling!' Kate said her daughter did incredibly well having suffered serious injuries and trouble with funding to make the trip to Tokyo. "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," said Kate. "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. We're just so really proud of Beth and very happy for her," said her Mom.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Shriever's success will ensure funding is allotted to women BMX racers. "I don't know the specifics of (Beth's) funding, but I do know that the way that the sports are funding is quite a kind of… they look for the winning sports and those are the ones they fund," said Shapps. "I don't know what the background was to her funding but well done to her, what a phenomenal story and an amazing win for the country."