Australia’s Tokyo Olympic Games hopeful Saya Sakakibara has suffered a heartbreaking crash in the elite women’s final at the BMX world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.
PIC: Craig Dutton Photography
Racing in the elite class for the first time at a world championships following a decorated junior career, the 18-year-old from Helensburgh, north of Wollongong, was felled by the flying bike of American Alise Willoughby who crashed in front of her.
There was nothing Sakakibara could do to avoid the accident, the bike of Willoughby, who is married to Australian Olympic silver medallist Sam Willoughby, hitting her in the chest just after she entered the third straight.
After hitting the deck hard Sakakibara was bravely able to get back on her bike and finish in a credible sixth place behind a Dutch clean sweep of Laura Smulders, her sister Merel Smulders and Judy Baauw.
The quinella for the Smulders sisters was the first time a pair of siblings has finished on the podium at an elite BMX world championships.
Despite the unfortunate but unavoidable crash, Sakakibara said she was delighted with her overall result.
“I was coming about seventh and was able to do a really good move on the first corner and got myself into fifth but Alise Willoughby crashed in front of me and I ran into her bike,” Sakakibara explained.
“That ended things for me but I came away with a sixth which is pretty awesome.
“I was already happy just to be in the final. It’s all a learning experience for me so I’m stoked.”
Watch Sakakibara’s final above.
Earlier Kye Afoo finished sixth in the final of the elite junior men’s race.
The teen from Pine Rivers BMX club in Brisbane progressed through the motos comfortably before placing second in his quarter final and fourth in the semis.
“My final gate wasn’t very good but it happens sometimes,” Afoo said.
“I didn’t get the first straight how I wanted it but I ended up sixth so I can’t complain.”
Watch Affoo’s final above.
While Sakakibara and Afoo were finalists, the day ended earlier for Australia’s 2016 Olympic finalist Anthony Dean, eliminated in the semi finals, with Saya’s brother Kai knocked out a round earlier in the quarterfinals.
Shane Rosa was Australia’s only other rider to progress through the elite men’s motos, finishing his campaign in the 1/8 finals.
In the elite women’s event dual Olympian Lauren Reynolds and national champion Erin Lockwood both made it to the quarter finals before bowing out, while Ashlee Miller (elite junior women’s) and junior men’s pair Nathaniel Rodway and Kyle Hill also went out at that stage.