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Olympic BMX cycling hopeful Kai Sakakibara critically injured in race crash

CANBERRA, Australia -- Australian Olympic BMX cycling hopeful Kai Sakakibara is in a medically induced coma in Canberra Hospital after sustaining serious head injuries in a weekend racing accident.

The 23-year-old rider underwent surgery Sunday morning to relieve pressure on his brain following the Saturday crash. Described as being in critical but stable condition, Sakakibara is expected to remain in a coma for the next two weeks.

Sakakibara, ranked among the world's top 10 riders in recent years, was aiming to make his Olympic debut in Japan, where he spent part of his childhood after being born on the Gold Coast in Australia.

"We understand the road ahead will be a long and difficult one, we are staying positive and taking things day by day," a statement from Sakakibara's family said Wednesday. "There isn't much we can do at this point, but Kai needs your support and your positive energy sent his way."

Sakakibara fell on the second corner during his opening-round heat at a World Cup event in Bathurst, 125 miles northwest of Sydney, and was treated at the scene by paramedics and a doctor before he was airlifted to hospital.

He began racing as a 4-year-old, moving to Tokyo in 2000 and collecting multiple national titles before returning to Australia in 2008.

Sakakibara's parents, Martin and Yuki, said their son's BMX career was "on hold for now" as they focused on his long-term rehabilitation.