It was the first time Australia has hosted a world cup round in more than a decade and the locals took advantage, with Rio Olympian Anthony Dean and Tokyo hopeful Saya Sakakibara grabbing silver medals, while rising star Izaac Kennedy finished third.
Dual Olympian Lauren Reynolds finished fifth in the women’s race too, making it the first time since the second round of the 2015 world cup in Papendal that four Australians were featured in finals on the same day. That time around it was Dean, Sam Willoughby, Reynolds and Caroline Buchanan.
Dean and Kennedy were pipped in the men’s race by reigning world cup champion Niek Kimman (Netherlands), while Sakakibara followed home only American world champion Alise Willoughby. Colombian two-time Olympic gold medallist Marian Pajon was third in the women’s event.
Willoughby, who alongside Reynolds is trained by her husband, London Olympic silver medallist and Australian BMX Hall of Famer Sam Willoughby, raced in a helmet that was painted half in the red, white and blue of her native USA and half in the green and gold of Australia was a popular winner, despite getting the best of Sakakibara.
The 20-year-old Australian had looked electric leading into the final and was the fastest qualifier from the semis, returning to the world cup podium for the first time since her breakthrough victory in Santiago Del Estero in the final round of 2018.
In the men’s event Dean was back in the top three for the first time since the same Santiago Del Estero round in 2018 and the 2016 Olympic finalist, who also trains under Sam Willoughby, was over the moon with his performance.
“It was good racing, warm day, hot weather and now it’s raining so it was a crazy day,” Dean said as rain bucketed down on the track just minutes after the conclusion of the event.
“It’s a long track, very demanding so I’m just happy to finish with a second, even though I really wanted that win in front of a home crowd. Second place though, I am stoked with that.”
Dean said recovery would be key ahead of Sunday’s second round, but he was confident of a strong showing.
“Definitely after today’s performance, I know where I am at, I know I am capable of winning so I’m very excited to go home and rest, get ready for tomorrow.”
Meanwhile Kennedy showed that he is the hottest teenage prospect in men’s BMX by snaring his third podium in just his second ever world cup final and only his sixth ever stop in the sport’s premier global series.
Dual Olympian and former world champion Caroline Buchanan continued her return from serious injury but was knocked out in the quarterfinals in a dent to her bid for a third Olympic Games berth.
Sakakibara’s brother Kai, who finished 2019 ranked tenth in the world, looked fantastic all day before becoming a surprise elimination in the 1/8th final.
Racing resumes at midday on Sunday.
About BMX Australia
BMX Australia is recognised by the Australia Sports Commission as the National Sporting Organisation for BMX racing and Freestyle BMX within Australia.
BMX Australia is the second largest BMX nation behind the United States and is an organisation with 17,000 members from the age of 2 years – 80 years. There are 8 Members Associations and 120 member clubs across the country.
BMX Australia exists to provide Australians with the opportunity to compete in BMX from junior levels through to elite competition, including the National Series, National Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games. It is responsible for delivering these benefits to Australian BMX riders in collaboration with the Members States and Territories.
BMX Australia’s vision “to lead Australian Sport through successful partnerships, participation growth and performance excellence” ensures that we strive to success, building a strong and positive public profile and continue to develop high quality athletes, coaches and officials at all levels of our sport.