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When Bethany Shriever secured the gold medal in the women’s BMX racing final, it was in an event in which she was not even projected to be a finalist. The win last week was Britain’s first Olympic gold in the event.

But it wasn’t just that Shriever, who was racing against the two-time defending Olympic champion Mariana Pajon of Colombia, was an unlikely contender to make the final, let alone claim gold. It’s that without some help from a GoFundMe page she set up in 2017, Shriever might not have even made it to Tokyo.

“The chances would be very, very, slim,” she said.

Shriever, 22, grew up participating in the British Cycling program, honing her skills in a sport where she was often the only girl at the track — something she took note of almost instantly, she said.

“I would just be training with boys pretty much,” she said. The number of competitors participating in boys’ races, particularly as she joined bigger events, always greatly outnumbered those in the girls’ races.

Shriever’s breakout moment came when she captured the junior world title at the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships in Rock Hill, S. C. But within months, Shriever was questioning her future in BMX. In a budget review after the 2016 Rio Games, UK Sport, the government body that invests in Olympic and Paralympic sports in Britain, cut funding to the women’s BMX program and announced it would finance only the men’s program in its journey to Tokyo.

“It was questioning things like, ‘Why haven’t we got the same chances as the men?’” Shriever recalled feeling at the time. “I wanted to get to the top and be able to earn a living from doing this.”

So Shriever decided to stay home in Essex with her family and take a second job as a teaching assistant helping children. She worked three days a week, and headed straight to the track or the gym afterward. “There were nights when I couldn’t put everything into training because I was just so knackered from work,” she said, adding that her employer was flexible with her schedule, giving her half days or allowing her time off for competitions. Her parents ferried her to races.

As the Olympic cycle began in 2019, Shriever knew that to earn enough points to get to Tokyo, she needed a better solution. She calculated what it might cost to hire a coach and to compete in various races before setting up a GoFundMe page for 50,000 pounds, or just about $70,000. She managed to raise nearly 20,000 pounds, which she said was used up almost immediately because of two events in Australia.

“That decision opened a lot of eyes that I did need help and I did have the potential to compete in the Games,” she said about launching a GoFundMe.

By midsummer 2019, Shriever had rejoined the British Cycling program. She did so with the help of a coach from British Cycling and a push by the program to get UK Sport to reinvest in disciplines whose budgets had been cut.

Shriever won all three of her heats in Tokyo and then the final, screaming on her bike as she crossed the finish line. In two weeks, Shriever will be competing for another first-place finish at the 2021 UCI BMX World Championships in Papendal, Holland.

Shriever is still the only woman on her six-member racing team, which includes Kye Whyte, who won the silver medal in the men’s event and was cheering from the sidelines as she made history. In addition to Shriever’s and Whyte’s medals, Charlotte Worthington won gold in the BMX women’s freestyle, an event that made its debut in Tokyo.

Women have come a long way in BMX, Shriever said, with more getting involved despite the obstacles they have to overcome to get the same opportunities as men. There is still work to do, she said, but she feels hopeful about the future.

“We are going in the right direction, for sure,” Shriever said.

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