Pedal for the Medal: The Sakakibara siblings bid for Olympic BMX glory – The Feed

Pedal for the Medal: The Sakakibara siblings bid for Olympic BMX glory – The Feed

November 7, 2019 1 By Luis Garrison


When the gate’s about to drop in a BMX race I think it’s a mixture of excitement and a bit of fear I guess. Anything can happen in the next 30-40 seconds of the race. My name’s Kai Sakakibara, I’m 21 years old. And I’m Saya Sakakibara, 18 years old. And we’re training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games… As brother and sister. BMX racing actually originated in the United States in the late 1900s. It was literally started by kids who couldn’t afford motorbikes and just imitated them on bicycles and it’s grown to what it is today. A BMX race has up to eight riders. We start from a start hill anywhere between two to eight metres high. It’s a 30 to 40 second race. You go from zero to 60 kilometres per hour in the space of two seconds. You just have no time to think and you just let the body take over. There’s a range of obstacles on the track and the first person to cross the finish line wins. Sakakibara! It’s a well-earned win. I remember being a kid, anything was a race. I’d race my mum running to the shops I’d race her to the car, race her down the stairs. Everything was a competition for me. I remember when he was four and I woke him up at eight o’clock in the morning as I do and he took one look at my face and he started crying. And I think that it’s because he wanted to be the first person to wake up. The kindy that I went to was right next to Ashmore BMX track. My parents saw kids riding on it, and took me there and I just loved it, so. I don’t think it was long before they bought me my first proper BMX bike and I’ve just been riding ever since. When Saya was born my Dad picked me up from my kindy and told me that I had a sister. And I think I was just like, “What’s a sister?” I think every sibling copies everything the older one does. I was following him around everywhere. You know copying him in everything. So with BMX too. So our mum’s Japanese, our Dad’s English and we’re first generation Australians born in Gold Coast, Australia. When I was four and she was two we moved to Japan and we spent six years there. We speak Japanese to our mum and that’s how we keep our Japanese up to date. Coming back from Japan to Australia it was definitely more of a culture shock. I had to learn English from scratch when I got here. So that was a bit of a culture shock. And yeah I think I really missed it at the start like I really missed the Japanese food mostly. I don’t feel Japanese, but there’s Japanese values that I’ve learnt and carried with me. Kai’s always been pushing me to be the best athlete I can be. A lot of credit goes to him for my successes so far. I guess it’s been inspiring for me because she’s been the one that’s kind of stepped it up first and shown that it’s all possible. It’s Sakakibara, can she go back to back? Sakakibara will take it! I’ve always wanted to do this and I’ve finally done it and it’s awesome. I’d won my race, did my interview, I was national champion and I came back around in the spectators and I saw Kai up on the gate And I’m like, “Yes let’s go.” You could hear a pin drop before that start. We could see a Sakakibara double in a few moment’s time. And I saw him win as well and it was such an amazing feeling. We’ve trained together, ridden together raced together for a lot of years. To share this win with her is awesome. BMX is such a cruel sport. The person that’s fastest on the day is not necessarily the person that wins. I’m a bit injured today, because in my last race I was coming across with two other girls and they came together and as I jumped, they clipped my back wheel. Oh Sakakibara goes down! Next minute I was just flying through the air. Yeah, I’ve been injured a few times. I had a crash at the World Cup in Belgium in mid-May. Oh, Saikakabra crashed. It’s definitely heart-breaking when I see my brother crash because I know how much work he puts in. But I think that’s just what BMX is, it’s a cruel sport and you just have to keep pushing through. To compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would be so special for me. It’s like a full circle I guess, going back to Japan and Tokyo. It’s exactly the same as what we’re doing when we we’re seven and four years old in Japan. If we can win gold together, that will be just the icing on the cake it’ll be absolutely amazing.