Fast track to gold for Sarah
New Zealand’s best shot at Olympic gold in Beijing this August could rest with BMX racer Sarah Walker, 19.
Sarah goes into the Games as world No 1 and the favourite to take BMX’s first-ever Olympic gold.
But armed with an ice-cool attitude, she’s remarkably pragmatic.
“I don’t want to say I’m going to win. I just want to do the best I can because I know that will mean a good result.
“It doesn’t seem real so I’m not that nervous. I’m looking forward to it.”
When brother Matt, 18, developed a taste for BMX nine years ago, inspiring his sister to Olympic glory must have been the last thing on his mind.
“Matt got a BMX for Christmas in 1998 and I used to go and watch him. Then I wanted to give it a go,” says Sarah.
In February 1999 she got a bike of her own and by April that year she was the New Zealand champion.
She has since won a stack of international races and shot to the top of the world rankings. Included are two bronze medals at this year’s world champs in Beijing.
But what she has in ability Sarah also has in temperament, which could be the key to a successful campaign.
Not even the shock departure of coach Grant White to work with fierce British rival Shanaze Reade at the start of the year grinds her gears. Instead she appreciates the enormity of what looms.
“It’s been a dream for as long as I can remember to go to the Olympics. It’s surreal that I’ll be going.”
Sarah has returned from a fortnight of light training in Phoenix, Arizona, to help acclimatise to conditions in Beijing.
“But BMX is one of the last events so I’ve got plenty of time to get used to everything around me,” she says.
“I’m looking forward to the opening ceremony. I know I’ll be blown away.”
Also in Sarah’s favour is the Olympic track.
“The guy who designed it, Tom Ritz, also designed the North Harbour track in Albany,” she says.
“Most importantly, I’ll have to make a good start. It will only ever happen once, but it will stand forever.”
High flyer: Sarah Walker shows why tipped for gold at the Beijing Olympics.