18-year-old Saya Sakakibara has made it two medal-winning efforts in a row at the opening two rounds of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in France!
(PIC: Jerry Landrum/BMXMania.com)
Young Australian BMX rider Saya Sakakibara has once again starred on the highlights reel at the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, winning a silver medal in round two of the series in Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines, France early this morning Australian eastern standard time.
The result makes it two successive podium finishes for the 18-year-old from Helensburgh, just north of Wollongong, this weekend. In round one of the world cup yesterday she rode to bronze behind Dutch Olympic bronze medallist Laura Smulders and Russia’s Natalia Afremova.
Today it was again Smulders who walked away with the gold, but this time Sakakibara pushed the reigning two-time world cup champion all the way to the line. Third was Belgian Elke Vanhoof.
In a short career, that has now spanned just four world cup events – two while still a junior elite rider – Sakakibara now has three medals to show for her efforts. Today’s silver and yesterday’s bronze will find a home next to another silver won in Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA in late 2016.
Thrilled and fatigued all at once, Sakakibara has had a dream start to her season in Europe with not only two world cup medals, but also a UEC BMX European Cup gold won seven days ago. Stepping off the podium, Sakakibara simply said it was “awesome”.
“I am feeling very excited and so tired,” Sakakibara smiled.
“I’ve had two big weekends of racing. But also two podiums from two world cups and that’s great, it’s very awesome.
“My start in the final today was a good one, and I was able to come from lane three to the inside of the track into third spot, then grabbed second at the first corner. I was catching Laura down the last straight and thought I might try for that first place spot, but I was a bit short.
“I am extremely happy with that silver medal place!”
While it was all smiles for Sakakibara, further afield among an Australian contingent of nine riders the results were mixed. Two-time Olympian Lauren Reynolds of Western Australia crashed during her semi-final, exiting the event at the same stage of racing as yesterday’s opening round.
Australia’s other two women made it no further than the quarterfinals. Canberra’s Harriet Burbidge-Smith recorded a DNF, while Queensland’s Sara Jones struggled with her shoulders, one spontaneously dislocating during her race – just as it did in Bunbury, Western Australia during the Australian elite women’s final a week ago.
On the men’s side of the ledger it was another Sakakibara who was the best ranked of the Aussies. Saya’s older brother Kai just missed a place in the semi-final round by finishing fifth in his quarterfinal. He was less than a tenth of a second away from the all-important top four.
Meanwhile Australian elite men’s champion Brandon Te Hiko, as well as Andrew Hughes from the Macarthur region in Sydney’s southwest both made it to the quarterfinal stage. Their results were an improvement on yesterday’s exit early on in the piece.
Adelaide’s Shane Rosa rode as far as the 1/16th finals, as did Jye Hombsch from Queensland.
The next stop for Saya Sakakibara and brother Kai will be rounds three and four of the UEX BMX European Cup in Zolder, Belgium from April 14-15.
Meanwhile the next world cup event is set to be staged in the Netherlands in early May. Undoubtedly it will be Smulders who will be the rider the younger Sakakibara needs to beat if she wants to chase down her first ever world cup gold.
WATCH SAY’S SILVER MEDAL EFFORT IN THE FINAL BELOW!