BMX double helps power Team GB to six more Olympic medals

·5-min read

A stunning medal double on the BMX track added to Great Britain’s Tokyo Olympics haul on a day of frenetic activity in which the squad won six medals to take Team GB’s overall tally to 26.

Great Britain also progressed to the semi-finals of the women’s rugby sevens on Friday but there was heartache in the football as the women lost 4-3 to Australia in an extra-time thriller and failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals. There were more medals in the pool, in trampolining and a final bronze in the rowing – bringing to a close an otherwise disappointing regatta for Great Britain.

The British team – which has more medals than at the same point in Rio 2016 – has secured medals in 13 different disciplines, more than any other country. Of the teams above Team GB in the table, China and the US have won in 12, Japan and the Russian Olympic Committee in 10, and Australia in five.

Ellen White of Great Britain’s women’s football team
There was disappointment for Great Britain’s women’s football team, including Ellen White. Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters

But the day belonged to Bethany Shriever, who won over a legion of new BMX racing fans with an astonishingly daring and commanding performance, holding off two-time champion Mariana Pajón to take gold. It is the reward for years of dedication and grit for the former teaching assistant, who in the wake of Rio 2016 was forced to fundraise to continue racing after UK Sport initially decided only male BMX riders would be supported.

The 22-year-old’s victory came shortly after her friend and training companion Kye Whyte took silver in the men’s competition, sparking memorable scenes of celebration as Whyte lifted Shriever off her feet to swing her round with joy.

Essex-born Shriever, who rejoined British Cycling in 2019 but is the only female rider to train with the squad in Manchester, said the race had been “perfect”.

“It’s our first Games and we’ve absolutely loved it. I could barely walk afterwards, I left it all on the track. It’s been a long, hard journey, I’ve had to rely a lot on my family and the team for supporting me to become a full-time.”

Whyte, nicknamed the Prince of Peckham, came back from fourth place to win his semi-final and propel himself into the final, where he finished 0.114 seconds behind the Dutch rider Niek Kimmann to take silver on his Games debut.

He described being overcome with emotion seeing his brother Tre – a former world championship medallist in the event – and his family stay up until 5am to watch the race. “I couldn’t speak [to my family], I was holding back the tears and it wasn’t working,” said the 21-year-old.

Gunning for the title of Team GB’s busiest Olympian, at the aquatics centre on Friday morning Duncan Scott won a silver in the men’s 200-metre individual medley, to go with his silver in the 200m freestyle and gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay he won earlier this week.

The Glaswegian is now the most successful British Olympic swimmer since the Edwardian era at a single Games and, with two events left – the men’s medley relay and the mixed medley relay – he could become the first British athlete in any sport to win four medals (or more) at one Olympics.

His friend Luke Greenbank, 23, won bronze in the 200-metre backstroke. The pair will probably be on Great Britain’s team for the men’s 4x100-metre medley on Sunday – Scott’s 10th race of the week.

In the trampolining Bryony Page won her second Olympic medal on the bounce with bronze in the women’s trampoline event at Ariake Arena. The 30-year-old from Crewe, who won a surprise silver in Rio in 2016, scored 55.735 to finish behind the Chinese pair Zhu Xueying and Liu Lingling.

Bryony Page won bronze in the women’s trampoline final
Bryony Page won bronze in the women’s trampoline final. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

The inquest into Great Britain’s disappointing performance in the rowing also got under way on Friday, after the men’s eight salvaged a medal, taking bronze in the men’s eight. The team of Josh Bugajski, Jacob Dawson, Tom George, Mohamed Sbihi, Charles Elwes, Oliver Wynne-Griffith, James Rudkin and Tom Ford unexpectedly finished third behind the gold medallists from New Zealand, with Germany taking second.

Sir Matthew Pinsent, who won four consecutive gold medals on the water, said there was no escaping the fact the British team had not performed as well as in the last six Olympics. Team GB finished the Games with two rowing medals, their lowest medal tally at an Olympics since Atlanta 1996, where they took two, and the first time they have not won a gold since 1980.

“So on one level it’s disappointing,” he said. “I don’t think there are many questions to ask of the athletes. I think they have performed out of their skins. But I will be talking to the performance director, Brendan Purcell, before the end of the day and I’ll be interested to see how he responds to these questions as well because ultimately the performance of the British team is his job.”

On the first day at the track Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith finished second in her 100-metre heat behind the US’s Teahna Daniels – a shaky start by her standards, with her time of 11.07 only 11th fastest across the eight heats.

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