A photo finish has resulted in rising star Saya Sakakibara standing third on the podium at the fourth round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup Series in Papendal, the Netherlands.
Finishing ahead of the 19-year old from the Illawarra region in New South Wales was the current bmx world champion Alise Willoughby and hometown rider, Judy Baauw.
It’s the third time in four rounds that Sakakibara has earnt herself a spot on the podium despite being in her first year as an elite women’s rider showing that she can ride with the best in the world.
Sakakibara’s day was a near flawless performance winning every race except for her semi-final where she came second. After finishing round three yesterday with a fifth place in the final, it was all too clear that the young Australian was hungry for more.
Now with two bronze medals and a silver to her name in the 2018 world cup series, Sakakibara now sits comfortably on the standings in second place on 450 points with ladder leader Laura Smulders only 100 points in front.
“I came in today with the same sort of mindset from yesterday and that was just to have fun,” Sakakibara said.
“In the final I was able to get into second place around the track and I kind of messed up the last straight which cost me, but I am really happy I finished third, it was an awesome weekend and I’ve learnt so much.”
For our other women’s elite rider, it was a disappointing day for Harriet Burbidge-Smith with the Canberra rider not making it into the quarter-finals.
On the men’s side of the ledger, Sakakibara’s brother Kai also had a successful day out on the Papendal track but missed out on a spot in the final coming sixth in the semi’s. Anthony Dean was out to follow up on his great return to the world cup stage but fell short alongside Izaac Kennedy in the quarter-finals.
Australia’s current national champion Brandon Te Hiko and South Australia’s Shane Rosa ended their day in the 1/8 finals while Andrew Hughes, Max Cairns and Jye Hombsch all fell short in the 1/16 finals.
New South Welshman, Adam Carey sadly missed the mark not progressing through after the first round.
National Team Manager, Luke Madill had an up and down day in regard to how his team performed but understands the nature of these events only too well.
“It was disappointing that none of our men’s side could make it into the final but when you see the quality of riders going out in the early rounds, it goes to show how cut-throat racing is at these rounds these days,” Madill said.
“Saya was great again today, she is showing that she fits right in and is comfortable with the best in the world.”
The next stop for our elite riders are rounds five and six of the 2018 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup next weekend (May 12 and 13) at Heusden-Zolder in Belgium. For Sakakibara, it will be the current world cup leader Laura Smulders who she needs to beat if she wants to grab her first world cup gold medal.