The Illawarra’s Saya Sakakibara is at the end of a stunning first season as an elite women’s rider and is heading to Santiago Del Estero, Argentina this weekend for the final rounds of the 2018 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup.
Sitting second on the overall UCI rankings and third in the world cup standings, the Southlake/Illawarra BMX Club rider has been competing against the best in the world all year and has consistently found the podium, a remarkable achievement for the 19-year-old.
Lining up on the gate alongside Sakakibara are many of the world’s best including Dutch world no.1 Laura Smulders and compatriot Judy Bauw, Britain’s former world junior champion Bethany Shriever and American dual Olympians Alise Willoughby and Brooke Crain.
Yet the young Australian is not daunted by taking on riders she has grown up admiring and is excited to bang bars with them.
“I was definitely star struck when I was getting on the gate with world champions, but I think I’ve finally accepted that they are my competitors and that I’m one of them now,” Sakakibara said.
“I’m in the mix to win and competing for the win like anyone else. I’m really excited about this weekend.”
Accompanying Sakakibara on the weekend is her older brother Kai, Joshua Mclean from Knox BMX Club, Victoria and Rio Olympian Anthony Dean from Cross Keys BMX Club, South Australia.
For Kai, a string of good performances on home soil has significantly boosted his confidence, yet a new challenge for the 22-year-old is the idea of complacency and the understanding that there is always room for improvement.
“As I’m getting better I find that there is always something else I need to focus on and it’s a continuous learning process,” Kai said.
“I left Australia in probably some of the best form I have ever been in, and because of that, I put more pressure on myself.”
Kai is currently sitting eighth on the world cup rankings and is joined by Dean, who is sitting 14th in the rankings, and Mclean, who has returned from injury after suffering two broken wrists at the start of the year.
This weekend’s racing is the first world cup event since the opening of the Olympic qualification period earlier this month for Tokyo 2020, a fact not lost on Saya Sakakibara.
“They are definitely on my mind. It’s been my dream ever since I was little to be at an Olympic Games,” she said.
“I can’t really imagine not being there now. I’m really striving to do whatever I can to qualify in the country and I just can’t wait to represent.”
Round 7 begins on Saturday September 29 at 1:20PM ART (Sunday September 30 at 2:20AM AEST.) Finals are expected to begin at 6:30AM AEST on Sunday.
Round 8 begins earlier than its predecessor with action kicking off on September 30 at 1PM. ART (Monday October 1 at 2AM AEST) and gates for finals beginning at 4:55PM (5:55AM AEST).
To watch Round 7 of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup – CLICK HERE
To watch Round 8 of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup – CLICK HERE