Incredible scenes as Aussie BMX favourite is taken out by rival as she led the race in shocking crash that was eerily similar to the one that left her brother brain damaged – as angry fans call for the U.S. rider to be disqualified
- Australia’s Saya Sakakibara, 21, is in the BMX semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics
- Her brother Kai, 25, is cheering her on in Tokyo with their Japanese-born mum
- Kai should have been in the men’s BMX but had a horrific crash last year
- The accident left him in a coma for two months with severe brain trauma
- He has amazed doctors with recovery and is part of Paralympic torch relay
- Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here
Australian BMX rider Saya Sakakibara has been stretchered off during the semi finals at the Tokyo Olympics after a horror crash eerily similar to one that left her brother brain-damaged.
Sakakibara was clipped from behind by US rider Alise Willoughby while leading the race, with furious fans calling for the American to be disqualified over the collision.
Her brother Kai, who turned 25 on Thursday, should have joined his 21-year-old sister on the Australian BMX racing team for the Tokyo Games.
But in February last year, he crashed heavily while racing at a World Cup round in Bathurst.
BMX star siblings: Saya Sakakibara (left) is representing Australia in the BMX semis at the Olympics today, while her brother Kai (right) cheers her on from the sidelines. He was in a coma for two months after a crash – ruining his own Olympic aspirations
Sakakibara suffered severe brain trauma and was in a coma for two months.
He has amazed doctors with his ongoing recovery – he can ride a bike again – but a long road still lies ahead.
He is in Tokyo to be part of the Paralympic torch relay, travelling with their Japanese-born mum and grandmother, but COVID-19 restrictions mean they cannot attend the BMX venue.
For a while on Thursday, it was not happy TV viewing for the Sakakibaras in their ‘Let’s Go Saya’ T-shirts.
‘I was so scared, because if she made one error, like she did in the first one, she would have been out,’ Kai told the Seven Network.
‘But she didn’t. I feel great.’
Asked if he was proud of her, Kai replied ‘definitely, but she still has tomorrow to go, so that’s when I will be really proud of her.’
Saya said she had spoken to Kai before her racing.
‘I basically just wished him happy birthday and obviously I’m here for the both of us,’ she said.
Kai has amazed doctors with his ongoing recovery – he can ride a bike again – but a long road still lies ahead. He is in Tokyo cheering on his little sister as she lives out her dream
Saya and Reynolds were drawn in the same heat of six riders, with the top four after the three rounds progressing to the semis and the medal race to follow on Friday.
While Reynolds posted a third place, a second and a fourth to cruise through, Saya had her race-one mishap and faded after a fast start in race two.
That left her in big trouble, sitting equal-last overall with two other riders.
Leading from the start again in race three, Sakakibara threw her bike at the line to beat Swiss rider Zoe Claessens by a tyre width.
But it didn’t matter – a top-two finish was more than enough.
She finished fourth overall with 11 points, four clear of the next rider.
There would be no such comeback for Dean, who finished last overall in his heat after the race-one tumble.
Alise Willoughby, the American wife of Australian BMX star Sam, dominated her heat.
Sam, who was left paralysed from the waist down after a 2016 training crash, coaches his wife, Reynolds and Dean.
Dutch star Niek Kimmann showed no ill effects after crashing into an official at training earlier this week, also easily reaching the semis.
Kai is in Tokyo to be part of the Paralympic torch relay, travelling with their Japanese-born mum and grandmother