GB's Bethany Shriever pips Colombian queen to gold in BMX racing

Mariana Pajon, who was aiming for her third consecutive Olympic gold medal, wins silver, and Netherlands' Merel Smulders the bronze.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Great Britain’s Bethany Shriever lead from the start in a thrilling women’s BMX racing final, just holding off two-time Olympic champion, Mariana Pajon.

The Netherlands’ Merel Smulders took the bronze, following in the footsteps of older sister Laura who took bronze in this event at London 2012.

World champion, USA’s Alise Willoughby didn’t make the finals after crashing in two of the three semi-final races.

Shriever broke Colombian hearts when she crossed the line in front of a fast-finishing Pajon on the 500m-long course. Despite the course being the longest in Olympic history, any longer and the Colombian might have had the Brit. Pajon had won gold at Rio 2016 and London 2012 and was looking for a triple-whammy, but it was Shriever who bolted out of the blocks and into a slight lead heading into the first corner and stayed in front throughout.

“I’m just in bits," said Shriever after wining Great Britain's first Olympic gold medal in cycling BMX racing. "I tried my hardest out there today and to be rewarded with a gold medal is honestly mind-blowing. I kept my cool today, kept it simple, and it worked. I’m over the moon. I’ve done my family and my boyfriend back home proud.

“I had no idea if I was far in front or if they were close, so when I felt her there I was just like, ‘Keep it smooth, keep it smooth,’ and I managed to have just enough legs to get to the finish line, and obviously it killed me at the end there, but it was all worth it.

“I didn’t realise how close Mariana was, obviously. I feel like her and I have similar riding styles, but I managed to keep my legs and keep my head, and I was rewarded with a gold medal at the end. I’m honestly speechless.”

“Going back-to-back to the Olympics is a huge challenge, and winning back-to-back medals is even bigger," said Pajon. "It’s been five years of waiting, dealing with injuries and up and down.

“I didn’t think it was possible to be in the final. To qualify was already a big challenge. This is like gold to me. I don’t even know what is happening right now, I saw it very complicated. Yesterday I was not feeling good, I suffered a heat stroke, I was very sick.

"This medal is for my country, that’s why I competed like this today.”

Team GB's Kye Whyte claimed silver in the men's event, with Netherlands' Niek Kimmann's winning gold and Pajon's compatriot Carlos Ramírez in bronze.

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