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The 2018 BMX Australia National Championships might have been all the rage in Bunbury, Western Australia the past weekend. But further abroad, a few Aussies were chasing worlds selection at key events.

PIC CREDIT: Kai Sakakibara Instagram

Star siblings Kai and Saya Sakakibara turned up the volume at the UEC BMX European Cup in Verona, Italy over the weekend, with Saya claiming gold in her second event of the weekend, older brother Kai nabbing the silver medal on the same day.

The duo was absent from last week’s BMXA national titles due to the selection criteria set out by Cycling Australia.

This years policy deems certain races in Europe and the USA to be key events where riders could produce a minimum of two performances good enough to put them in the frame to be ‘automatically eligible for consideration’ for selection to the Australian team for the 2018 UCI BMX World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.

With a selection criteria on their mind, the weekend didn’t quit start to plan for team Sakakibara during Saturday’s first round. Kai’s day ended in the semi-final phase, while a rear-tyre blowout eliminated Saya from the elite women’s final while in a strong position.

Nevertheless the Southlake/Illawarra BMX Club members returned the next day to both achieve a result good enough to count towards being automatically eligible for consideration to the Australian team.

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For Saya in particular, the gold medal effort brings confidence ahead of next weekend’s first two rounds of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, which will be held in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.

“The win today was the first of two results needed in the worlds selection criteria,” Saya said.

“I knew today I needed to step it up to make the top four, and now that I have got that I do feel relieved to have that. Next weekend (at the first round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup) I need to get into the top six, and I have two chances there.

“Definitely this win boosted my confidence for France next week.”

Meanwhile Kai was equally happy to achieve a result that will bode well for consideration to this year’s Australian team. He also took a moment to praise newly crowned Australian elite men’s champion, and good friend Brandon Te Hiko.

“It was a relief to get that result to go towards attaining automatic eligibility for consideration,” Kai Sakakibara said.

“Part of being in Europe and missing Aussies was to make sure I get results that go towards qualifying for the world championships, not that it is any guarantee, but it gives me relief to have results under my belt.

“But seeing Brandon win the Australian title, I cannot think of anyone more deserving. He has done it tough end of 2016 and 017 missing most of that season through injury. To see him come back as strong as he looks, and hungry for that win…I am so stoked for him and it could not have gone to anyone more deserving.”

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Meanwhile in the USA two-time Olympian Lauren Reynolds raced to a pair of third place finishes in the elite women’s class at the USA BMX Carolina Nationals in Rock Hill, South Carolina. That makes it four straight podium results in USA BMX Supercross events over the past few weeks.

Reynolds, whose home track is Bunbury, was also unable to attend the Australian nationals due to world’s team qualification criteria. You can read more of Lauren’s thoughts about not being at this year’s national championships HERE.

Reynolds will join both Sakakibara’s and a handful of Aussies in France this coming weekend for the first two rounds of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup.

Last but not least, were strong results for Queensland’s Izaac Kennedy and Victoria’s Max Cairns, who both found themselves in the elite men’s main on day two at the Carolina nationals.

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Cairns finished seventh, Kennedy sixth in what is an opportunity of a lifetime to be racing stateside.

“Unfortunately it was a short final for me, getting tangled up over the first jump and rolled over for sixth place,” Kennedy said.

“The competition was world class over the weekend with current and past world champions and Olympians, I was really happy I was able to get in the mix and battle with those guys all weekend.

“I’m really enjoying my time in the US so far. It’s been a great opportunity to be living in Las Vegas, spending time with Trent Jones (NZL), Connor Fields (USA Olympic gold medallist) and Max and learning from those guys during training.”

The BMX season rolls on in the coming month, with the first two rounds of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, and some continuing their USA exploits.

Closer to home, riders will be shaping up for round two of the 2018 BMX Australian National Series, to be held from April 21-22 at the Frankston BMX Club. You can enter that event HERE.