British BMX star Beth Shriever won gold in the women's race at the Tokyo Olympics, a historic win made more exceptional because Shriever almost didn't make it to the Games.
U.K. Sport, the government agency responsible for funding in Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United Kingdom, decided after the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro that it would only financially support male riders.
Shriever said the funding cut was "such a shock and just so out of the blue." Former women BMX riders had done the country proud — winning just as many World Champions as the United States in the same 11-year time period, according to BBC Sport. BMX, or "bicycle motocross," was added to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Riders compete on a dirt race course made of various jumps and hills.
However, no British rider had ever won an Olympic BMX medal. So, funding was cut — but Shriever saw other options.
British Cycling, the main national governing body for cycle sports in Great Britain, created a financial support package for women riders.
Still, that wasn't enough. "It's finding money for the travel and races that's difficult and it's been a little bit stressful," Shriever told BBC Sport. She relied on her parents at times and even became a part-time teaching assistant for two- and three-year-olds.
"The school, which is also where my mum works, are absolutely great about giving me time off to compete," she said. "They've been massively supportive and I love it."
"It's also taught me a lot about talking to younger generations and I want to be a role model, particularly for the young girls so they can see what's achievable in sport," Shriever said.
In 2019, she began her crowdfunding campaign. "We did the sums and worked out how much it would cost for this season and to get to the Olympics and it was just way out of our budget of what we had in mind," she told BBC Essex.
She estimated it would cost £50,000 to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, and at one point, she worried if she'd make that money. "At times it's been stressful, wondering where the money is going to come from, but the results are making it all worthwhile," the athlete told BBC Sport in 2018.
Shriever was racing in Argentina, Tokyo and America which she called "massive trips" that are "quite expensive." She started getting the word out that she needed financial help and some athletic clubs and schools began holding fundraisers for her, according to BBC News.
"The potential is there for me. People know I can do it and I believe I can do it," she said.
"My rivals, who are all around the world, are doing this full time and are funded, so I'm the only one who's not really getting much help," Shriever said. "It is worrying and I don't want my dream to compete at Tokyo to be taken away just because of money."
Her crowdfunding efforts and commitment to BMX paid off – she not only got to Tokyo, she won all three qualifying races. Then, she won the gold medal, beating Colombia's Mariana Pajon, who she said was as her childhood idol, she told BBC Sport.
"Honestly, I'm in shock. To even be here is an achievement in itself," said Shriever. "To make a final is another achievement in itself. To win a medal, let alone a gold medal, I'm over the moon."