March 4, 2020 / 4:22 AM / 25 days ago

Cycling-Australian Sakakibara improving slowly after BMX accident

SYDNEY, March 4 (Reuters) - Critically injured Australian Olympic BMX hopeful Kai Sakakibara is improving "tiny steps at a time" and doctors treating him are more optimistic than before, his family said on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old was placed in a medically-induced coma last month after he fell during his opening-round heat at a World Cup event in Bathurst and sustained head injuries.

Gold Coast-born Sakakibara and his younger sister Saya had been tipped as medal contenders at this summer's Olympics in Japan, where he spent part of his childhood.

"A few weeks ago, doctors were not confident he would survive, but he has been fighting hard, and doctors are now more optimistic he will make it," his family said in a statement issued through Cycling Australia.

"The immediate goal is to get Kai off the respirator as soon as possible so he can move out of the Intensive Care Unit and onto the next step in the process."

"...we are told Kai is progressing tiny steps at a time, and we really need to be patient. This is going to take a long time, and we don't know what to expect."

Doctors do not know the real extent of the injury but believe Kai's fitness and youth would help in what is likely to be a lengthy rehabilitation, they said in the statement.

"We are still staying positive and taking things day by day," the family said, thanking the support and good wishes from Australia and beyond.

Kai is ranked 12th in the UCI elite men's BMX racing category, with Saya occupying fifth spot in the elite women's division. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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