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Saya Sakabira Women in Sport

Exclusive: Saya Sakakibara and Red Bull’s Jen Davis On 2020 Tokyo Olympics

T
he Ministry of Sport Women in Sport Summit 2021 took place on Friday, June 25 at USC Stadium, delivered in partnership with Sunshine Coast Council and Tourism and Events Queensland.

BMX world champion, Saya Sakakibara, spoke at the summit alongside Red Bull field marketing manager, Jen Davis.

Looking back on the start of her journey towards her new mission of taking gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Sakakibara reflected on role models in her life such as her older brother Kai and New Zealand’s Sarah Walker.

“[Sarah Walker’s] performance on the track has always been such an inspiration to me,” Sakakibara told Ministry of Sport.

“Seeing how passionate she was about BMX and the younger riders, she really made an effort to talk to me even though I was 10 years old and a nobody.

“That is what made a really big impression for me when I was growing up.

“I’m not really sure if I consider myself a role model but if I am able to give a few girls and boys coming up inspiration and to give them a little bit of encouragement like what Sarah did I think that would be so amazing,” she said.

Born in Japan and growing up in Australia, Sakakibara discussed the growth of the sport of BMX within the two countries.

“I think within Japan and Australia it has been growing,” Sakakibara said.

“Japan is about 300 riders now and Australia is probably way over with 15,000 which is amazing.

“Recently they’ve put together mountain biking, cycling and BMX all into one core AusCycling and that’s one membership where you can actually participate in anything you want.

“That will promote more participation within BMX as well as cycling in general and will allow girls and boys to come back to a really great family and a really supportive environment,” she said.

Absent from Sakakibara at the upcoming Olympics will be Red Bull sponsorship as the International Olympic Committee enforces strict rules regarding any additional sponsorship towards athletes.

Jen Davis discussed the challenges this presented for Red Bull and how they could best assist their athletes for the lead up to the games.

“It’s a really interesting one and for us we don’t have the opportunity to have our branding out there in the Olympic period,” Davis told Ministry of Sport.

“But it’s about making sure the Red Bull athletes who are heading to the Olympics are at the top of their game and we’re supporting them to be able to reach their goals, whatever that looks like.

“For us it really comes back to supporting peak performance and then making sure that we also have the content ready on the back end to be able to share their stories and take an active role in capturing some of that journey.

“For us it’s all about storytelling.

“We want to be able to champion our Olympic athletes and we do that by supporting their performance first and foremost… and then be able to showcase those stories,” she said.

Sakakibara discussed the impact social media had on her and how she tries to use it to promote her image.

“It’s definitely been a big challenge of mine to balance training and everything that goes along with that,” Sakakibara said.

“Although social media is something that can grab my attention for way too long, it’s also a tool to connect with my fans or see what my other competitors are doing.

“It is something that is a necessity in my life and I do use it in moderation.

“I think it’s a great tool to engage with my followers and show them what I’ve been up to.

“Especially with this Olympics, there’s no one that can travel there and everyone is going to be heavily relying on the athletes to be the first-hand insight into the experience,” she said.

Over the coming weeks, Ministry of Sport will be releasing video footage from the Women in Sport Summit, including Saya Sakakibara’s live interview with Jen Davies.