Chilling scenes as Aussie BMX favourite Saya Sakakibara is stretchered off track at Tokyo


Australian BMX star Saya Sakakibara has been stretchered off during the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics after a horror crash left her motionless on the track. 

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.  

In a cruel twist, her older brother Kai was left brain-damaged and in a coma for two months after an eerily similar crash while riding last year.  

Commentators were left without words after the ‘brutal’ crash during the live broadcast on Seven as the 21-year-old medal hopeful received on-course treatment.  

Her brother Kai, who turned 25 on Thursday, should have joined her 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. 

Kai suffered severe brain trauma and was in a coma for two months. 

Aussie BMX star Saya Sakakibara, 21, suffered a horrific crash during her Olympics semi-final

Aussie BMX star Saya Sakakibara, 21, suffered a horrific crash during her Olympics semi-final

Sakakibara was clipped from behind by US rival Alise Willoughby while leading the race. Furious fans called for the American to be disqualified

Sakakibara was clipped from behind by US rival Alise Willoughby while leading the race. Furious fans called for the American to be disqualified

Sakakibara was clipped from behind by US rival Alise Willoughby while leading the race. Furious fans called for the American to be disqualified 

Sakakibara was well on her way to scoring a spot in the finals before the horror collision

Sakakibara was well on her way to scoring a spot in the finals before the horror collision

Sakakibara was well on her way to scoring a spot in the finals before the horror collision

Sakakibara has since managed to regain consciousness from the horror collision and gave a teary interview to Channel 7 at the racetrack upon realising her dreams of winning the gold medal had been taken away.

‘I feel like I let everyone down especially my brother,’ she said in between tears. 

‘I can’t believe it’s over. It just really sucks for sure.

‘I want to say to everybody back home thank you so much for supporting me. It would have been great to be in that final and go for that gold, but this is the sport of BMX.

‘I just have to take this as a plus and make sure I come back stronger for Paris.’ 

Saya Sakakibara suffered a horrific crash during her Olympics semi-final race

Saya Sakakibara suffered a horrific crash during her Olympics semi-final race

Her brother Kai was left with severe brain trauma and in a coma after a bike crash (pictured before injury)

Her brother Kai was left with severe brain trauma and in a coma after a bike crash (pictured before injury)

Cruel twist: Saya ‘s older brother Kai was left brain-damaged and in a coma for two months after an eerily similar crash while riding last year

Kai and the rest of Saya’s family were watching on from Tokyo when she went down during the tense semi-final.

Speaking after Saya’s race, Kai said was well on her way to getting a spot in the final.  

‘Today was all about the finishing off what we started yesterday. Which was to qualify through to the final, but unfortunately Saya had a bad stack and that didn’t happen, so that was really annoying,’ he said.

‘But either way I’m really proud of her. I can’t wait to see her race again.

When asked by the Channel 7 presenter if he wanted to give a message to his sister, Kai was a beacon of support.

‘Saya, I know this isn’t what you wanted, but either way I’m proud and lets go and prepare for the next one,’ he said. 

Kai has amazed doctors with his ongoing recovery after his own traumatic fall 18 months ago – 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

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

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

Kai is in Tokyo to be part of the Paralympic torch relay, travelling with their Japanese-born mum and grandmother

Kai is in Tokyo to be part of the Paralympic torch relay, travelling with their Japanese-born mum and grandmother



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