Saya and Kai Sakakibara win 2019 Oceania BMX titles

Saya and Kai Sakakibara (Australia) claimed elite titles at the 2019 Oceania BMX Championships in Te Awamutu, New Zealand on Saturday January 19. For Saya it was her first elite title, and Kai his second with both standing on the podium together two years ago. New Zealand took both junior crowns with Tasman Wakelin and Jessie Smith.

World number two Saya Sakakibara was in control throughout the competition easing through the motos to find a spot in the final. Taking the lead on the first turn Sakakibara hit the front and never looked back managing the jumps to safely cross the line ahead of the field.

Defending Champion and London Olympic Games medallist Sarah Walker (New Zealand) was next across the line for silver, while Rebecca Petch (New Zealand) claimed bronze for a fifth consecutive medal at Oceania BMX Championships.

“It is pretty cool. Last year I missed out on the Oceania Championships because I was away overseas competing and it is really good to come back to New Zealand, which is such an awesome country. To 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,” a delighted Saya Sakakibara said.

“It is definitely a good kick start,” Sakakibara added of the importance of a victory early in the season. “Until now I hadn’t raced for three months or so, I was a bit shaky at the start and it was nice to bring it all together in the final.”

Minutes after his sister had tasted success Kai Sakakibara took to the track looking to make it a family affair. In a closely fought race Sakakibara had the faster closing speed as he chased down Brandon Te Hiko (Australia) in the closing metres to take the title, forcing Te Hiko to settle for silver for the second year in a row. Brad Game (Australia) completed the podium.

“It feels really good. I am in two different places now. Two years ago, I was still up and coming and I hadn’t had my first elite win, that was actually my first win. Whereas now I’ve had a few wins, so I felt as if I had a target on my back at this event. So, it was different kind of pressure but felt really good to maintain my composure and ride how I wanted to,” explained Kai Sakakibara.

“We have always been riding and training together and I see what she goes through and sacrifices and goes through to get where she is and vice versa so any win that we share together is very special.”

In the junior men’s Tasman Wakelin (New Zealand) was too quick for Australian pair of Jack Davis and Matthew Tidswell.

It was Jessie Smith who took top honours in the junior women’s against countrywoman Baylee Luttrell and Australia’s Kiana Botfield.

2019 Oceania BMX Championship medallists – Full Results
Elite Men
Gold – Kai Sakakibara (Australia)
Silver – Brandon Te Hiko (Australia)
Bronze – Brad Game (Australia)

Elite Women
Gold – Saya Sakakibara (Australia)
Silver – Sarah Walker (New Zealand)
Bronze – Rebecca Petch (New Zealand)

Junior Men
Gold – Tasman Wakelin (New Zealand)
Silver – Jack Davis (Australia)
Bronze – Matthew Tidswell (Australia)

Junior Women
Gold – Jessie Smith (New Zealand)
Silver – Baylee Luttrell (New Zealand)
Bronze – Kiana Botfield (Australia)