Australian BMX star Saya Sakakibara has been stretchered off during the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics after a horror crash left her motionless on the track.
Sakakibara was clipped from behind by US rider Alise Willoughby while leading the race, with furious fans calling for the American to be disqualified over the collision.
In a cruel twist, her older brother Kai was left brain-damaged and in a coma for two months after an eerily similar crash while riding last year.
Commentators were left without words after the ‘brutal’ crash during the live broadcast on Seven as the 21-year-old medal hopeful received on-course treatment.
Her brother Kai, who turned 25 on Thursday, should have joined her on the Australian BMX racing team for the Tokyo Games.
But in February last year, he crashed heavily while racing at a World Cup round in Bathurst.
Kai suffered severe brain trauma and was in a coma for two months.
Aussie BMX star Saya Sakakibara, 21, suffered a horrific crash during her Olympics semi-final
Sakakibara was clipped from behind by US rival Alise Willoughby while leading the race. Furious fans called for the American to be disqualified
Sakakibara was well on her way to scoring a spot in the finals before the horror collision
Sakakibara has since managed to regain consciousness from the horror collision and gave a teary interview to Channel 7 at the racetrack upon realising her dreams of winning the gold medal had been taken away.
‘I feel like I let everyone down especially my brother,’ she said in between tears.
‘I can’t believe it’s over. It just really sucks for sure.
‘I want to say to everybody back home thank you so much for supporting me. It would have been great to be in that final and go for that gold, but this is the sport of BMX.
‘I just have to take this as a plus and make sure I come back stronger for Paris.’
Cruel twist: Saya ‘s older brother Kai was left brain-damaged and in a coma for two months after an eerily similar crash while riding last year
Sakakibara choked back tears after the collision upon realising her dream of getting the gold medal had been taken away
Kai and the rest of Saya’s family were watching on from Tokyo when she went down during the tense semi-final.
Speaking after Saya’s race, Kai said his sister was well on her way to getting a spot in the final before the unthinkable happened.
‘Today was all about the finishing off what we started yesterday. Which was to qualify through to the final, but unfortunately Saya had a bad stack and that didn’t happen, so that was really annoying,’ he said.
‘But either way I’m really proud of her. I can’t wait to see her race again.
When asked by the Channel 7 presenter if he wanted to give a message to his sister, Kai was a beacon of support.
‘Saya, I know this isn’t what you wanted, but either way I’m proud and lets go and prepare for the next one,’ he said.
Kai has amazed doctors with his ongoing recovery after his own traumatic fall 18 months ago – he can ride a bike again – but a long road still lies ahead.
He is in Tokyo to be part of the Paralympic torch relay, travelling with their Japanese-born mum and grandmother, but COVID-19 restrictions mean they cannot attend the BMX venue.
Kai has amazed doctors with his ongoing recovery – he can ride a bike again – but a long road still lies ahead. He is in Tokyo cheering on his little sister as she lives out her dream
The Sakakibaras have been seen cheering on Saya during her entire Olympic campaign while donning their ‘Let’s Go Saya’ T-shirts.
After Saya’s heat to get into the semis on Thursday, Kai admitted he was feeling anxious.
‘I was so scared, because if she made one error, like she did in the first one, she would have been out,’ Kai told the Seven Network.
‘But she didn’t. I feel great.’
Willoughby is the American wife of Australian BMX star Sam who was left paralysed from the waist down after a 2016 training crash.
Meanwhile Australia’s other BMX rider Lauren Reynolds has finished fifth in the finals.
Kai is in Tokyo to be part of the Paralympic torch relay, travelling with their Japanese-born mum and grandmother