Siblings Saya and Kai Sakakibara celebrated victory at the 2019 Oceania BMX Championships in Te Awamutu, New Zealand.
"I hadn't raced for three months or so, I was a bit shaky at the start, so it was nice to bring it all together in the final," said Saya who took the lead on the first turn and held it to the finish line.
"Last year I missed out on the Oceania Championships because I was away overseas competing, so compete against my all time idol [Sarah Walker] and all the other amazing competitors from Australia and New Zealand it was the icing on the cake to take the win today.
In a closely fought men's final, Sakakibara chased down Brandon Te Hiko (Australia) in the closing metres to take the title.
"I’m very happy to begin the year with a win at the Oceanias," said Kai. "I didn’t have huge expectations as the event fell right in the middle of my off season training block, so it was great to still come away with a solid win."
The pair will now head back to their training base on the Gold Coast as they begin preparations for the World Cup season which begins in April.
Results | Event Website
The Australian Cycling Team has arrived in Azerbaijan for the 2018 UCI BMX (Supercross) World Championships with siblings Saya and Kai Sakakibara (NSW) and 2016 Olympic Games finalist Anthony Dean (SA) confident following their European and World Cup campaigns.
For Saya Sakakibara, her maiden season in the elite ranks has netted triple podium appearances from the first six rounds 2018 World Cup Series, in addition to gold and silver at the European Cup.
“Definitely a great confidence booster coming into the World Championships,” Saya told Cycling Australia after her final training session in the Netherlands. “Heading into this season, being first year elite, I had no expectation of podiums, it was purely to learn and gain experience.
“It's humbling to think I'm up there with the best in the world already competing for spots on the podium.
“Although I may have a little more confidence, I just have to remember what mind set put me in that position in the first place and execute that exactly this weekend.”
Kai Sakakibara, Australia’s leading male rider in ninth on the UCI rankings, has enjoyed a consistent season with three top ten placings in the European Cup, and two at the most recent rounds of the World Cup in May.
“I came into season 2018 with strong expectations, but I have quickly learned it doesn’t get any easier, it is just as competitive as any other year,” said Kai, who with Saya, has based himself in Europe for much of 2018 to increase his exposure to racing.
“It has been fantastic being around this European racing environment week in week out, in the training environment everyday. Getting this experience under my belt and doing the races leading into the Championships has been invaluable,” said Kai, who finished 2017 ranked ninth.
“The fact that I have been able to maintain a high position in the rankings this season, to know I am consistently up there, definitely gives me confidence and a good chance of doing well at the Worlds as well.”
At the six and most recent World Cup in Belgium two weeks ago, Anthony Dean found the podium and is aiming for the final this weekend.
“(My) preparation has been really good leading into the World Championships, I have been down in San Diego getting lots of track time and work done, I’m excited and ready to go,” said Dean.
“Coming off the podium just three weeks ago in Belgium gave me a good push and I’m excited, confident and looking forward to the opportunity to show what I can do come finals Saturday.”
Reigning world champions Corben Sharrah (USA) and Alise Willoughby (USA), plus World Cup leaders Niek Kimmann (NED) and Laura Smulders (NED) will create a challenge the Australians in the battle for the rainbow jersey.
The 2018 UCI BMX World Championships take place from 5-9 June in Baku, Azerbaijan. For more information, visit the official Baku2018 website or watch the live stream.
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Complete Australian Team for 2018 UCI BMX World Championships