Header image: Saya Sakakibara poses for a portrait at Macarthur BMX Track in Camden, Australia on November 8, 2023. Credit: Brett Hemmings / Red Bull Content Pool

BMX star Saya Sakakibara shares her triumph over adversity

BMX sensation Saya Sakakibara is the latest guest to sit down for Season 3 of Red Bull’s Mind Set Win podcast.

Featuring in its third episode, Saya Sakakibara joins Lisa Ramuschkat to speak frankly on her path and reveal the profound significance the sport has had on her life.

Saya’s BMX journey started at the age of four, attending practice sessions and following in the footsteps of her brother and pro-racer, Kai. Over the past two decades, Saya has accumulated an impressive array of trophies – including four World Championships and five Australian National Championships.

Acknowledging the pivotal role her family and supporters have played in her success, Saya delves into their influence in the full-episode interview. She also reflects on two significant moments in her life, with both her and her brother sustaining serious injuries while competing.

Despite suffering her own injury setback in Tokyo, Saya has her sights set firmly forward as she remains focused on her quest for Gold in Paris.

Fear is something that Saya has had to grapple with on numerous occasions during her ascent in the BMX world. However, she refuses to let it hold her back, and instead harnesses her experiences to evolve both as an elite athlete and as an individual.

Here are some key quotes and soundbites from the chat:

On her love-hate relationship with BMX – from the beginning

With me and BMX, I had a love-hate relationship as soon as I started racing. There was a story where I went to the track for the first time, crashed three times, cried, went home, and didn’t even touch my bike for three months. What brought me back to BMX was my brother Kai.

On rebuilding her relationship with BMX after her own injury

I took some time away. The second part of any injury could be the hardest part. Trusting yourself again, building up the courage to line up against the other girls. That was probably the part that took the longest, and was the hardest part.

There was this nagging feeling of ‘you’re not done yet, stop thinking that you’re quitting. I can’t quit now’. I couldn’t allow myself to be defeated by this fear. I’m going to give it another go and I’m going to do every single thing the way I want. I made every single decision purely for me.”

On returning to the sport

“The first day I got out of the semi-finals. I remember texting my coach and saying is it bad I’m really happy not to make it to the finals? He was like kinda! Because I was also still working through that fear component and I was like well if I didn’t make it to the final, then it means one less race that I have to race that I put myself in danger of crashing again. A weird pulling and tugging of if I want to do this.”

On her first victory after returning

“When I won there, I couldn’t believe it. That was where I crashed the year before. Through all this, I didn’t want to do this, it’s where I had the worst day of my life. I came back to win the race, it was a huge outpour of emotions. The biggest bit of evidence that I could now obtain to say I’ve done this and I can trust myself, and this is a huge achievement.”

On fear

“The fear never goes away, but you learn to identify it quicker, and manage it better. The annoying thing is the only way to manage it is to go through it. You can’t be better at managing fear without putting yourself in those situations. The feeling on the other side [is what drives me]. When you do your best in that situation despite how you feel and get to the other side, that’s when it feels incredible because you know how you felt, you know how hard it was but you still did the thing that was scary. That is what drives me in those situations.”

On changing her mindset

Journaling – I would start speaking in past tense on how I want the next day to go e.g. I felt confident at the BMX track. It tricks your brain into thinking that has happened already.”

Mind Set Win Season 3 is available on all major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Deezer. You can watch it on YouTube HERE.

Header image: Saya Sakakibara poses for a portrait at Macarthur BMX Track in Camden, Australia on November 8, 2023. Credit: Brett Hemmings / Red Bull Content Pool

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