Kai’s Unbreakable Spirit

The Unbreakable Spirit of Kai Sakakibara

*From a news.com.au article by Amy Marnie

Kai Sakakibara’s life took a dramatic turn in February 2020. Four years on, he finds new hope in para-rowing, aiming for the 2028 Paralympics.

“No one wants to get a traumatic brain injury,” Kai Sakakibara says. “That’s not how it works. But when it happens, it can change your life completely.”

In February 2020, the then 23-year-old BMX champion suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during a World Cup race in Bathurst, a crash that halted his Olympic aspirations but also changed his life forever.

“My parents didn’t even know if I would wake up or not,” Sakakibara says. Fortunately, he did.

Today, Sakakibara lives with the permanent effects of TBI, facing challenges like fatigue, motor skills and difficulty following complex conversations.

Sakakibara’s dad, Martin, says he tackles his brain injury with the same mindset he honed as a professional athlete.

“He focuses on progressing one step at a time, concentrating on aspects within his control, and striving to make every day a bit better than the one before,” he says.

It’s estimated that around 200,000 Australians suffer a TBI every year, with mild TBI or concussion making up about 170,000 of these cases.

TBI doesn’t affect discriminate and can happen to anyone. The most common causes of concussion are falls, car accidents, interpersonal violence, workplace accidents and sports.

Today, Sakakibara has shifted his focus to a different Olympic dream.

While he can’t race bikes, he discovered a passion for para-rowing at Paralympics Australia’s ‘Come and Try Day’ and aims to compete at the Paralympics in 2028.

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