Twelve months after a concussion that kept her on the sidelines, Saya Sakakibara has returned to winning ways at a UCI BMX Racing World Cup – fittingly, at the same track where she sustained her injury.
Sakakibara’s Round 3 win in Papendal, the Netherlands on Saturday was certainly an emotional one.
“This win means so much more than just a World Cup win,” Sakakibara said in a post-race interview. “On Friday, I had such a bad training session that I went home and cried for, like, two hours. I don't know why.
“I think this track has good memories but also a lot of bad, with concussions, and I think just dealing with all those emotions, aside from the stresses of racing, was just really a lot.
“I don't know what I was able to do, but I think I just kind of took one race at a time. Literally, just broke it down and just trusted myself completely. And I just can't believe it.”
The win came with special meaning for the 23-year-old as her partner, French rider Romain Mahieu, claimed victory in the elite men’s final.
On Sunday, Sakakibara came agonisingly close to completing a perfect double for the weekend, going undefeated on her way to the Round 4 final.
However, Great Britain’s Bethany Shriever denied her back-to-back victories, leading the final from the first corner and holding off a fast-finishing Sakakibara by just over two-tenths of a second.
The Southlake-Illawarra rider now moves into second overall in the World Cup standings on 1,345 points, behind Shriever on 1,622 points and ahead of Alise Willoughby (USA) on 1,248 points.
In the Men Elite category, Izaac Kennedy reached the semi-final in Rounds 3 and 4, but was caught up in the field on both occasions. In the Men U23 event, Jesse Asmus progressed to the Round 3 final only to blocked on the second straight, effectively ending his chances of a podium.
Papendal was the last World Cup round before the UCI BMX Racing World Championships in Glasgow on August 12–13.
Main image: UCI BMX Racing