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Saya Sakakibara

Age

24

Place of Birth

TALLEBUDGERA, QLD

Hometown

Helensburgh, NSW

Junior Club

South Illawarra BMX Club

Senior Club

South Illawarra BMX Club

Olympic History

Tokyo 2020

Paris 2024

High School

Kirrawee High School

Career Events

BMX Racing Women's Race

 

Saya's Story

Saya Sakakibara started BMX racing at just four-years-old after watching her older brother Kai compete in events.

Born on the Gold Coast, Saya and her family lived in Japan for the first few years of her life – her mother is Japanese – before moving back to Australia when she was six. Saya and Kai joined South Illawarra BMX Club and began competing on the junior circuit.

Saya started to rise through the ranks and was soon winning state and national titles. In 2017 she won silver in the Junior Elite BMX Supercross at the World Championships.

A year later Saya made her senior World Championships debut where she finished in an impressive sixth place. That same year, she was runner up in the overall 2018 World Cup Series.

Her success continued throughout 2019, claiming multiple top-five finishes across the 2019 World Cups, seventh at the 2019 World Championships, and gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event.

The six-time national champion made her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and showed a steely resolve by clawing her way back from a tough start in her quarter-final heats when she ran off the track and finished last in her opening run.

Determined not to let it hold her back on Olympic debut, Saya then finished fourth in her second run before producing a stunning victory in her third race to progress to the semi-finals alongside teammate Lauren Reynolds.

The younger sister of fellow Australian rider Kai, who was seriously injured in a racing crash in 2020, Saya then looked headed for the final when she finished fifth and first in her first two semi-final heats.

But she was cruelly denied a shot at a medal when she crashed out of the third and final run along with American Alise Willoughby, both narrowly missing the final, which was won by Great Britain’s Beth Shriever.

Saya suffered a concussion in the crash and after Tokyo she took an extended break, but returned at the end of 2021 to win her maiden Australian title at the national championships on the Gold Coast.

Another injury – another concussion – kept her out of action early in 2022, but she was back in form by the end on the year.

In 2023, Saya won five of the 10 rounds of the UCI BMX Racing World Cup and near-flawless riding in the final two rounds secured her the overall title and world no. 1 ranking.

Holding a lead of just over 100 points going into the final weekend of racing in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, Saya needed to put together a strong performance to take the crown.

She did more than was required, scoring dominant wins in both races to shut the door on her opponents.

Speaking after claiming the title, Saya said she had considered giving up BMX racing after suffering the concussion.

"But I am so happy that I brought out the courage and gave it one more red-hot go and it really paid off,” she said.

"When I was at home with my concussion this time last year, I never would have thought that I would win this overall and have such a successful season."

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