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Taking on the worlds best, Sakakibara gets ready for round 5 and 6

Rising BMX star Saya Sakakibara from the Illawarra region is looking to continue her hunt for a maiden UCI BMX Supercross World Cup victory, when rounds five and six of the 2018 series kick off in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium this weekend.

Currently second in the series standings, first-year elite rider Sakakibara has gone head-to-head with the likes of dual Olympic gold medallist Mariana Pajon of Colombia, world champion Alise Post of the USA and two-time world cup champion Laura Smulders of the Netherlands.

As a result, the 18-year-old has forged her way onto the podium in three of the opening four rounds of this year’s series. Undoubtedly, fighting for victory on the world BMX stage against her idols is a far cry from 2017, when Sakakibara spent her days at Kirrawee High School in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire.

While the results speak for themselves, those that have supported Sakakibara in her sharp rise have eagerly watched her evolve as a rider. BMX Australia National Team Manager and 2008 Olympian Luke Madill mentored the young star during her days on the BMX Australia Academy, and said that Sakakibara was “the whole package.”

“She’s just got the whole package, a lot of riders at this level tend to have a great deal of physical skill but lack that mental strength to compete,“ Madill said.

“But for Saya she is ready for that class [elite] and she looks very comfortable.”

“Her results are showing that she is quite at home stepping into the elite class and the transfer period has taken no time at all,” Madill said.

Joining Sakakibara in the Australian team this weekend is older brother Kai, Rio Olympic finalist Anthony Dean and 2018 Australian elite men’s national champion Brandon Te Hiko from Geelong.

In addition to Te Hiko, Victoria will also be represented by Max Cairns, Shane Rosa will join Dean in making it two riders from South Australia, NSW will have Adam Carey and Andrew Hughes in contention alongside the Sakakibara’s, Harriet Burbidge-Smith will fly the flag for the ACT. The team rounded out by Queensland duo Izaac Kennedy and Jye Hombsch.

Although Saya Sakakibara has the runs on the board to be a clear standout for Australia, Madill said he has been blown away by the quality of racing across the board throughout the 2018 world cup series.

“Besides the top five riders in the world, the next tier down consists of about 60 riders and every one of them has to step up massively to join the top level, which is a big ask,” he said.

Heusden-Zolder will be the second last venue of the 2018 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup. This weekend will see two rounds contested on consecutive days, before a four-month hiatus until the final two rounds in Santiago del Estero, Argentina in September.

The fifth round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup kicks off on Saturday May 12, with coverage beginning at 9:30pm AEST.

Round six will follow the next day with coverage again beginning at 8:45pm AEST.

Australian fans can watch the action LIVE via YouTube.

Saturday’s racing can be accessed below.

Sunday’s racing can be accessed below.

Featured Image: Saya Sakakibara – Facebook