BMX riding siblings Kai and Saya Sakakibara already have an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games but there’s a lot of racing to be done before they can even book their tickets to the great show in sport.
That racing continues this weekend when more than 500 riders from across the country converge on Sydney BMX Club at Sydney Olympic Park for the opening stage of the 2019 BMXA BAD BOY National Series.
The Sakakibara’s, who represent Australia but have close ties with Japan via their Japanese mother, are two of Australia’s brightest prospects 18 months out from the next Olympics and are without doubt the biggest stars currently riding on the Australian domestic BMX circuit.
Older brother Kai sits eighth in the world rankings, while 19-year-old Saya is ranked second after cementing her undoubted potential for an Olympic medal by winning the final round of the elite UCI Supercross World Cup in 2018.
Saya, who began this year by winning the elite women’s Oceania title, is well aware of the pathway she must follow towards Olympic glory and has set out a formula to ensure she treats every race she contests as an important step along the way.
“I’ll treat this next weekend as I would at any international race,” Saya said.
“It’ll be the same as at a world cup or European round in terms of process, my warm up, what I listen to and what I eat.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into racing and getting into that routine again and that would be my main focus for the weekend.
”Kai has also been in stellar form this season, winning the superclass event on both days of the high-class Nerang Nationals on the Gold Coast in early January before backing up to claim the men’s elite Oceania championship a few weeks later.
The 22-year-old said he would use the first two rounds of the national series to prepare for his international campaign later in 2019, following a career best year in 2018 that saw him finish just one place off the podium at the UCI Supercross World Cup stage 6 in Zolder, Belgium in May.
“It’s always important to do the best that I can and It’s been a pretty good start to the year and it’s now about doing the grunt work,” Kai said.
“It’s still early days and my goal is to compete well at the world cups starting with Manchester in April and then the world championships in Belgium in July.”
The elder Sakakibara said he had not raced on the Sydney Olympic Park track for several years but praised the national series format that saw events contested in every state in the country.
“It’s been a really long time (2015) since I rode the track at Sydney (BMX club),” he said.
“It’s nice with the national series format that we see more different types of tracks and that should provide for interesting racing.
“The NS format is good. It’s inclusive for everyone. Everyone in every state has the chance to race the best riders in the nation, no matter whether you’re brand new to the sport or an expert who doesn’t travel much.”
Led by the Sakakibara’s, who compete for Southlake Illawarra BMX club, there are more than 300 New South Wales riders competing over the weekend that will feature competitors ranging in age groups from 5 & under to 50+.
Racing gets underway at 1pm on Saturday and 9.45am on Sunday. Entry is free for spectators and media are welcome.
Kai and Saya Sakakibara are rising superstars of BMX racing who turned down the host nation to represent Australia. Their road to @Tokyo2020 starts in Sydney this weekend. @MattCarmichael @7Olympics #7Olympics #7News pic.twitter.com/9qnOdB6fwE
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) February 12, 2019