Fast track to gold for Sarah

Auckland City Harbour News - - Sport - By Si­mon Plumb

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.”

Pho­tos: BEN WAT­SON

High flyer: Sarah Walker shows why tipped for gold at the Bei­jing Olympics.



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