Aussie BMX star Saya Sakakibara escaped serious injury after a horrific crash during her Olympic BMX semi-final, but soon after she emerged from the wreckage she had a nation of hearts breaking for her as she gave an emotional interview.
Destined for a spot in the medal race as she led the semi-final, things took a turn for the worst when Sakakibara tangled with American Alise Willoughby - the wife of Aussie former BMX world champion Sam Willoughby - late in the race, with the duo both crashing out as a result.
The collision led to Sakakibara being put on a stretcher as fans held their breath with fears the 21-year-old may have suffered serious injuries.
Fortunately, Sakakibara did not need to go to hospital for treatment and the BMX star regained her poise for a TV interview.
"Definitely confused, I honestly don't really know what happened," Sakakibara said.
"But I know I was riding well... I just came down with Alise (Willoughby) who caught up to me and we came down together. That's all I can remember.
"It's just so disappointing, I feel like I let everyone down, especially my brother."
It was a devastating moment for all who have come to know the Sakakibara story after Saya's brother, Kai, himself a world class BMX rider, endured a horror crash last year.
Kai was expected to be part of this year's Tokyo Games before the crash during a World Cup round in Bathurst left him with severe brain trauma and in a coma for two months.
Sakakibara said all she can do now is look forward to Paris 2024.
"To be honest, I really can't believe it's over. It really sucks," she said.
"For everyone back home, thank you for supporting me all the way
"I feel I did the best I could today. It hasn't really clicked that it's over, it just sucks.
"This is the sport of BMX and I have to take this as a plus and make sure I come back stronger for Paris."
Moments before Sakakibara's incident today, reigning BMX racing gold medalist Connor Fields of the United States had to be carried off on a stretcher after crashing in the third qualifying heat at the Tokyo Olympics.
Fields was fourth after his opening two heats and landed hard off a jump heading into the first turn in the second heat. The 28-year-old from Las Vegas slammed into the turn and lay on the track as medical personnel rushed out to help him.
Fields was attended to for several minutes before being carried away. He qualified for the finals, but will not be able to race. He became the first American BMX rider to win gold at the 2016 Rio Games and was a favourite to win it again in Tokyo.
- with AP
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