Not since 2011 have London Olympic silver medallist Sam Willoughby and reigning world champion Caroline Buchanan stood atop the podium at the Australian National BMX Championships, but on Saturday in Shepparton, Victoria they both re-captured their national titles.
The win for Willoughby and Buchanan came two days after both won the Oceania Championships on Thursday.
For Willoughby, the win did not come easy as he had to fight to hold off up-and-comer Anthony Dean (SA) and national series winner Bodi Turner (QLD), while Buchanan was in spectacular form and cruised to victory.
“It was awesome to get over the line first today,” Willoughby told BikeRadar immediately after the race. “I was pretty tired after the race on Thursday night and from travelling from the US, but it’s great to get the job done and I feel very satisfied.”
Willoughby commended BMX Australia and the local community for hosting the event and creating an “overwhelming” atmosphere.
“The course suited me perfectly,” he said. “Long, open straights and big jumps, if I could make a track for myself this is pretty close to it for sure. They probably couldn’t have built a better track for me personally.
“I love this place. All the support from everyone here always overwhelms me when I come home. It’s surreal.”
For the red-hot Buchanan, 23, who returned to Australia last week after opening the 2014 Supercross World Cup season with a win in Manchester, England on April 19. She cruised to her 12th career BMX national title by defeating Leanna Curtis (NSW) and Kirsten Dellar (WA) to continue a winning streak at major events this year that now includes the World Cup opener, as well as the Oceania crown and the national series title which she also wrapped up with the national championship victory.
“I love racing on home soil and there is so much support here this weekend,” said Buchanan, the 2013 Australian Institute of Sport Athlete of the Year. “It was really important for me to win today, as I have not been able to say that I was the Australian champion for the past three years, and now I can proudly, once again, say that I am.”
Celebrations for Willoughby and Buchanan will be short-lived, as both leave Australia on Sunday for Holland and the second round of the World Cup tour.
“It is important to continue to ride the wave and take this momentum to Holland,” said Buchanan. “But right now I just want to soak in the rest of the action in Shepparton and live in the moment. I can refocus on the World Cup tomorrow.”