Multiple-bodied carnage on a bumpy track. Bikes strewn everywhere. F-bombs blurted out all over the shop and Team GB all over the podium.
Gold for the Essex girl who, for a time, had to teach toddlers to raise cash. Silver for the boy from a Peckham council estate who swerved the gangs. At 4am back in England, Liam Gallagher tweets his approval.
‘Oh my God,’ Beth Shriever, who has just become the nation’s first female gold medalist at Tokyo 2020, tells the BBC in the immediate aftermath of glory. ‘I just f****** dug in.’
Bethany Shriever pulled off a stunning win in the BMX racing to claim gold for Team GB
She went head to head with Colombia’s Mariana Pajon and pulled off an upset to prevail
Dressage it ain’t.
BMX racing may not be for the purists. When they sat down at the sanctuary of Zeus to thrash out the disciplines, eight centuries BC, it was probably far from the top of their list of contenders. But there can’t have been many more entertaining mornings at the biggest sports show on earth than this.
In the space of 10 frenzied minutes at the Ariake Urban Sports Park, Britain’s BMX bandits took two medals — two more than the nation had won previously in the 13 years that this high-speed, high-octane assault on the nerves had been part of the Games.
First it was Kye Whyte, who had promised to ‘take something nice back to Peckham’. He delivered on that, and a few more yards of track would have seen him overtake his Dutch rival Niek Kimmann, who ousted him by just 0.144 seconds.
The 21-year-old, for whom merely reaching the final had originally been the aim, then took his place at the finish line to watch his pal — and it was just as well.
Moments later 22-year-old Shriever, who had earlier in the day won all three of her heats, gloriously repeated the trick and was about to collapse. Just over 44 seconds of frantic pedal pumping had triggered a lactic acid volcano in her legs which threatened to do what the rest of the field could not, and bring her to her knees.
No matter. Whyte immediately swept her up in his arms as the cameras clicked. It is an image destined to become one of the iconic shots of Britain’s Games.
The beauty of the Olympics is that the feelgood stories are all around us. But the path trodden by most to Tokyo may not have been as rocky as that faced by Shriever.
Shriever had collapsed to the ground after her win, crying: ‘I can’t feel my legs’
In 2016, amid a backdrop of scandal and unrest, UK Sport pulled £4million from the cycling budget.
It meant that subsequent cuts were inevitable. Cruelly, those who needed the money most were vulnerable. Women’s BMX and men’s mountain biking — which just happen to have produced two gold medals here — were victims.
The knock-on effect was that Shriever was forced to crowdfund and find work in an attempt to remain competitive. Fortunately, Stephen Park, British Cycling’s performance director, stepped in, argued her case and was successful. His role here should not be underestimated.
‘I was a teaching assistant at a primary school back in Essex working with three and four-year-olds,’ Shriever explained. ‘I did that for two years and then Sparky saw my potential at British Cycling, got me on there and I’m now at Manchester (HQ) full-time.
‘I’ve been able to train every day and had a great support group, my family and friends around me. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t doing this full-time in training.’
She followed compatriot Kye Whyte, who had landed silver in the men’s event moments earlier
On the eve of the contest, Shriever’s mum, Kate, had described her daughter as a role model and told of how she began her career at the age of nine at Braintree BMX Club, ‘on a second-hand bike, with a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads’.
‘If she can make it through the semi-final to the final that would be amazing for women’s BMX in the UK,’ she added, stating it would be a stressful early hours’ adventure, watching the action unfold on television at her Finchingfield home.
Indeed the only sadness was that the time difference meant that few people back home would be watching. That said, Gallagher — awake at 4.10am (obviously) — was one of them.
‘BMX racing at the Olympics is blowing my mind,’ the former Oasis frontman tweeted ahead of the final, later adding: ‘Bethany Shriever what a ledge well done.’
Whyte had already been a rock ‘n’ roll star and he and his team celebrated in a manner Gallagher would have been proud of as he crossed in second after a brutal qualifying session which saw two competitors carried off on stretchers.
‘If you’re scared you might as well pack your bags, you won’t ride properly,’ Whyte said. ‘I told my brother, nothing is stopping me, I’m prepared to crash.
‘It’s a contact sport. It’s like being scared in boxing — you will lose. You need to overcome the fear.’
Whyte and his brother spent their childhood evenings at Burgess Park on their bikes. Others in their neighbourhood fell into gangs and Whyte has spoken of friends who lost their lives having chosen that path.
Money was tight. At one national event his parents, who were both coach and secretary at Peckham BMX Club, were forced to sleep in a car. ‘Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am,’ he said.
Shriever said she was forced to overcome her raw emotion to focus on her own race after watching Whyte claim a medal
At the end of his race Whyte approached the video bank of screens to see them and it was all too much. ‘I couldn’t speak,’ he said. ‘I was holding back the tears and it wasn’t working. I saw my brother and family and all the kids staying up till 5am.’
This is an impressive young man, who was quick to focus the attention back on Shriever.
‘I’m more happy for her than I am for me,’ he said. ‘That girl puts in some serious graft.
‘I knew she was going to win, the way she was riding the track, no one was catching her. You don’t see a silver medalist doing that.
‘She’s a great girl and she deserves that gold medal because her skills are unbelievable.’
The same could be said for both of them.