There was drama aplenty, lots of wonderful success stories and equal amounts heartbreak on the final day of the 2017 BMX Australia National Championships at the Sleeman Sports Centre in Brisbane.
Josh Boyton bounced back after breaking his arm and elbow in January to came the men’s junior elite event in emphatic style, while Saya Sakakibara paved the way for her brother Kai’s stunning elite men’s final victory with a hard-fought win over long-time rival Sara Jones.
There were no more convincing wins all weekend than that of Dirk Winter in the 25-29yrs men’s event or the prodigious duo of Molly McGill in the 16yrs girl’s and Des’Ree Barnes in the 15yrs girl’s race.
Winter continued what has been a superb undefeated season at national level with eight from eight wins in the national series, a national cruiser crown earlier this week and today’s title.
McGill proved once again she is world class by dominating her final, while Barnes won the national title for the seventh time in nine years.
Perhaps the most popular win of the day went to Kale Warner in the 16yrs boy’s race.
Warner, who didn’t even make it into the quarterfinals last year, stormed home and was mobbed by his rivals and a bunch of friends alike. It was one of many special moments at these titles.
For Boyton, today’s win was one he wasn’t sure he’d ever get the chance to fight for after his crash and subsequent injuries forced him to miss eight weeks of training in the first part of the year.
“Today I just tried to come out as strong as I could, I didn’t know if I could do it, but I just had to believe in myself and give it everything I had” heaved Boyton after a thrilling final.
“I couldn’t do much for the first four weeks of the injury period, and then I slowly started adding gym work back into my program. I’ve only been back on the bike for two weeks, so I just tried to get in as much riding as I could before today.”
Given her form this year – and indeed over the last nine years – Barnes’ win was as predictable as it was precocious, the teenager again riding with skill well above her years to show her rivals a clean set of wheels.
“Today’s win comes off the back of a lot of training and hard work, I’m over the moon right now,” Barnes exclaimed!
“I’m in the gym three times a week, and right now that has all paid off. Next stop is the world championships!”
The continued development of McGill and Barnes, and the talent of Saya Sakakibara and Jones, augers well for women’s elite BMX in this country.
As has been the case for a number of years, there is often not a spoke between Sakakibara and Jones and so it was today with Sakakibara winning by a mere 0.083 seconds to defend her title.
In other events, Cairns rider Shannon Petre joined Barnes as the winners of this year’s Buchanan Next Gen scholarship, after she took out the 14yrs girl’s race. The scholarship awards $3000.00 to the top placed scholarship applicant in the 14yrs and 15yrs girl’s classes, with the money to be put towards travel to the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships in Rock Hill, USA this July.
Buddha Baum claimed back-to-back titles in his age by winning the 14yrs boy’s.
There was a hair in the boy’s 15yrs final where Oliver Moran edged out Corey Taylor by 0.024 seconds.
In the 17-24 women’s event, Aislynn Weber entered the final as one of the favourites having won the Grands Challenge in her class, but she appeared to shock even herself with her victory.
Nathan Seal claimed the men’s 17-24 race and Michael Robinson the men’s 30+ masters event.
The attention now turns from the track to the glitz and glamour of the BMX Australia awards night at the Mercure Hotel in Brisbane’s CBD. The event will recognise the achievements and contributions of volunteers, officials, coaches and athletes alike.