Tokyo Olympics: WA’s Lauren Reynolds through to semi-finals of BMX event

Roger VaughanAAP
BMX riders in action.
Camera IconBMX riders in action. Credit: Ben Curtis/AP

Australian Saya Sakakibara has rallied from an early mistake to qualify for the Olympic BMX racing semi-finals with a last-gasp win.

It was a turbulent opening day of competition for the Australians, with Bunbury product Lauren Reynolds also qualifying for Friday’s semis, but Anthony Dean crashing early and then finishing last overall in his quarter-final heat to drop out of contention.

Sakakibara and Reynolds were in the same heat on Thursday at Ariake Urban Sports Park.

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In Thursday’s opening quarters, the competitors were divided into heats of six riders and had three rounds of races.

The top four in each heat progressed to Friday’s semi-finals, with the medal race to follow.

While Reynolds cruised through the three rounds with a third, a second and a fourth placing, Sakakibara went off course and finished last in race one.

She led early in race two, but faded to fourth and that left her equal-last on points with two other riders.

Saya Sakakibara.
Camera IconAustralia's Saya Sakakibara (second from left) is through to the BMX semi-finals in Tokyo. Credit: AP

Sakakibara, a medal chance in Tokyo, again took the lead in race three and threw her bike across the line to just beat Swiss rider Zoe Claessens.

The Australian was fourth overall in her heat, one behind Reynolds.

Sakakibara’s brother Kai would have been competing in the BMX at Tokyo as well, but he had an horrific crash in a race early last year.

He has made a remarkable recovery from a traumatic head injury that left him in a coma and is in Tokyo to support his sister.

Alise Willoughby, the wife of Australian BMX star Sam, won all three of her rounds, as did Colombia’s defending Olympic champion Mariana Pajon.

Dean also crashed in the first of his three quarter-final races, crossing the line second-last.

He was also second-last in race two, but the Rio Olympian was still in contention.

Dean then finished a clear last in the final race, meaning he was also last overall in his heat.

Dutch star Niek Kimmann, who crashed into an official earlier this week while training on the Olympic BMX track, showed no ill effects of the accident.

The 2015 world champion won two of his heats and was second in the other to easily qualify for the semis.

American Connor Fields, who won the gold medal in Rio and French pair Sylvain Andre and Joris Daudet were other big names who dominated their heats.

Andre and Daudet were the only men to win all three of their races.

As always in BMX racing, Thursday’s rounds featured several crashes and Japanese rider Sae Hatakeyama paid dearly for hers.

She landed heavily in her first round and pulled out of the event.

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