Rising star Oli Moran has won silver in the junior elite men’s category at the 2019 UCI BMX World Championships in Belgium as Tokyo Olympic hopefuls Saya Sakakibara and Anthony Dean have suffered heartbreaking crashes in their finals.
Both Sakakibara and Rio Olympic finalist Dean had looked outstanding throughout the competition on the wet and greasy track before crashing at the bottom of the start hill, and on the first berm, respectively.
For Moran, from Manning Valley BMX Club, it was the first Aussie to medal in the junior event since Geelong’s Brandon Te Hiko, the 2018 elite men’s national champion, won bronze at the same Heusden-Zolder track in 2015.
Moran’s world championships kicked off in fine fashion, as the 17-year clean swept his qualification motos before placing third in the quarter finals and fourth in the semi’s.
But it was the final that had a packed out crowed on its feet and Moran was in the thick of it grabbing his first silver medal, while French duo Tatyan Lui Hin Tsan won gold and Nathaniel Dieuaide picked up bronze.
“I didn’t have the best start in the final,” Moran said.
“I was lagging behind in the first straight and then everyone just fell down. I managed to dodge them and I just kept pedalling. I wasn’t really thinking about anything else… just pedalling.”
While the feeling hadn’t properly sunk in, the NSW rider said he was looking ahead to the rest of 2019 and 2020 with some strong ambitions.
“My plan now is to hopefully have a week or two off,” Moran continued.
“Then I will start training for next year and hopefully get over to Europe to do some world cups rounds.
“My main goal for next year is to win a worlds!
“I’ve gotten a third and a second, just haven’t gotten that first.”
While Moran experienced elation, it was déjà vu for the Olympic hopefuls, who were both looking like favourites for their respective podiums.
At last year’s event in Baku, Azerbaijan, Helensburgh’s Sakakibara came down with USA’s Alise Willoughby which ended both their chances of a podium finish and the 19-year old has has suffered the same fate at Circuit Zolder.
While it may have been Groundhog Day for Sakakibara this year, it wasn’t for the American who produced a clean lap to take gold and the elite women’s world title, while the Australian settled for seventh.
Rounding out the elite women’s podium was last year’s defending champion Laura Smulders from the Netherlands, and France’s Axelle Etienne.
It was a similar story for South Australia’s Anthony Dean, who came in to the first corner of the elite men’s final in third before he too came down, ending his chances of a top three finish.
Astoundingly, Dean fell at the exact same spot in the final of the 2015 world championships. While disappointed, the Olympian remains positive with his strong performance in the build-up to the final and is already looking forward to next year.
“I was having such a great day winning five laps, and a third in the semi-final. I was set up for a great day,” Dean said.
“I had a perfect gate, but just wheelie’d to the bottom, and that is what cost me. I went into the first turn in third, was coming out going for second and just caught the guy’s wheel in front of me who was turning really high in the wet conditions.
“I was in a bad spot turning at the wrong time.
“Pretty disappointed, I felt like this was the day it could have been mine, but what are you going to do? I will just come back and try again.”
While Dean grabbed sixth, the Dutch had the two top spots on the podium with Twan Van Gendt in first and the 2018 world cup champion Niek Kimmann in second. Completing the podium was defending world champion Sylvain Andre.
In other results for the Australian Cycling Team, Saya’s older brother Kai was looking strong in the build-up to the finals before ending his day in the semis. Dual Olympian Lauren Reynolds and junior elite Des’Ree Barnes were also eliminated in the semi finals.
Queensland’s elite men’s national champion Izaac Kennedy, and junior elite riders Jack Davis (Tamworth, NSW) and Corey Taylor (Geraldton, WA), finished in the quarter finals.
Victoria’s Joshua McLean was unfortunate to receive a competitive gate in the 1/8 finals and couldn’t fight his way past world and national champions to progress further.
Australia’s junior elite national champion Matthew Tidswell was a favourite heading to Belgium, however on the first jump of his first moto, the South Australian came down hard and suffered an ankle injury which ruled him out for the rest of the day.
Ipswich’s Matthew Krasevskis and the Gold Coast’s Erin Lockwood both flew the Aussie flag with pride but were unsuccessful in qualifying past the moto stages.
Australia’s riders will now prepare for stage 5 of the 2019 BMXA BAD BOY National Series at Dean and Tidswell’s home track in Adelaide.