Australian teenager Saya Sakakibara is celebrating after claiming the win in the final UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, which also secured second overall for the Wollongong cyclist on the year-end international rankings.
“I am so over the moon,” said Sakakibara, 19. “I am so incredibly grateful for my support, and for the Australian Cycling Team for supporting me all the way and giving me the opportunity to race each round this year, especially when I contested no World Cups last year."
Round 8 FInal
Santiago del Estero, Argentina, hosted the final two rounds of the season, with Sakakibara lucky to escape with just scrapes and bruises after spectacularly crashing out of the Round 7 semi-final on Saturday when a rider crashed and took her wheels from under her.
Recovering in time for Sunday’s eighth and final round, Sakakibara lead from the gate, and with former world champion Alise Willoughby (USA) and reigning world champion Laura Smulders (Netherlands) breathing down her neck, she surged to the victory with judges awarding the win to the Australian in a photo finish.
“I did not expect that (win) especially after yesterday crash, I was kind of shaken up a little bit and little fearful coming into today. However, I got a good start and an excellent first straight, and I was able to make it work all the way to the finish line.”
ROUND 7 SF CRASH
Sakakibara finished second behind world champion Laura Smulders (Netherlands) on the BMX Supercross rankings after a season that included one win and four podium appearances, in addition to claiming sixth in her first elite career World Championship final.
“My aim this year was to gain as much experience as possible, and I did exactly that. I was able to get some wins and podiums along the way, I couldn’t be happier with this season,” said Sakakibara, who will now head back to Australia to continue preparations towards Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I am really looking forward to getting back into the offseason, gaining strength, and hopefully I will come back faster and definitely will have more confidence heading into next season.
“Every race is critical from now on in terms of Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020, and I will be aiming for the top, for the podium, all the way to the Olympics.
“I am working so hard to making sure I am going to be there.”
In the men’s finals, Rio Olympic finalist Anthony Dean took bronze in round eight.
Copyright Craig Dutton