The “Prince of Peckham” Kye Whyte claimed the nation’s first Olympic medal in BMX cycling in the early hours of this morning with silver in the men’s event.
He and later gold medal winner in the women’s race, Bethany Shriever, celebrated as he lifted her in the air to mark their historic achievements in Tokyo.
On the 100m home straight he was three lengths behind eventual winner, Dutch rider Niek Kimmann – but he closed within half a wheel at the line, just 0.114 seconds behind.
The Team GB pair retained their focus after both finals had been delayed by serious crashes.
American Connor Fields, favourite in the men’s race, was taken off the track on a stretcher and then to hospital after a crash in the third and final heat of his semi-final – each rider ran three races to get through to the ultimate 400m dash for gold. The extent of his injuries is still not clear.
Whyte has fought back from serious injury to earn his medal.
The rider is ranked 12th in the world, having finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships, but was unable to ride the Olympic test event in 2019 because of injury.
“The medal is flipping heavy,” he joked. “My neck’s aching. It nearly slipped out of my hands. It means everything to me.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is pretty hard to get to the Olympics in the first place. To do well and get a medal, it is special.”
Dubbed the Prince of Peckham, the Londoner looked stunned as he celebrated with his family back home on a video screen at trackside.
“They all went to the Peckham BMX club house,” he said. “My little nephew’s there and he stayed up until 4am/5am. I can’t imagine how tired all of them are.
“I’ve got family I haven’t seen in ages because I live in Manchester and they live in London.”
Whyte later thanked his family – including his brother Tre, who won World Championship bronze in 2014 before retiring in 2020 – and members at the Peckham BMX Club for staying up in the early hours of the morning to watch his success.
“I reckon Tre might cry,” he said. “My dad definitely did cry and my mum cried too. When I get back it will be crazy.”
Former British BMX rider Shanaze Reade, who finished sixth in the London 2012 final, said the pair had put in the “performances of their lives”.
“It is a credit to them both,” she added on the BBC coverage. “To go to your first Olympic Games is nerve-wracking; to go to your first Olympic Games and actually win it and get a silver medal is unbelievable.
“I always say a happy head is fast legs – both of those guys seemed so happy, so relaxed and took it in stride. Their performances showed that.”
Whyte had said in April 2019, after selection, before his injury and as he prepared for the games, then scheduled for 15 months later: “My parents played a huge part, helping me and my brother go to every race even when times were hard.
“Without the lottery funding I would probably be in the bike shop and training afterward – it would be a big loss.
“Since I was 12 years old, this has been my dream. This is where I’ve been destined to go. Now I’m here, I’m only going to try harder and get faster to win the Olympics.”
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