BMX babe Sarah Walker’s amazing engagement
I’m on top of the world!
Locked in a close embrace on an exposed peak high above the Kaimanawa Forest, Olympic BMX silver medallist Sarah Walker and her new fiancé Vin Elliot are on top of the world.
Bracing themselves against a sharp breeze as Woman’s
Day’s photographer clicks away, Sarah, 29, points to a valley a few hundred metres away. A diamond ring shines brilliantly on her finger as she flashes a grin and says,
“That’s where it happened!”
It’s been three weeks since Vin, 28, asked his soulmate for her hand in marriage – and his fiancée admits she’s found it hard to stop smiling ever since.
In fact, their entire relationship – which began on Valentine’s Day last year – has been something of a fairytale for the Kiwi athlete.
And while Sarah knew she had found her prince, she didn’t expect a proposal fit for a royal – or at least a Hollywood movie!
“He got me good,” she says with a laugh.
“I knew she’d be hard to surprise,” Vin explains, as he throws an adoring look at his fiancée, who is looking stunning in a scarlet gown, which is blowing dramatically in the wind. “So I knew I had to put in a lot of effort!”
Man with a plan
Unbeknownst to Sarah, Vin had the proposal idea six months ago and schemed with her manager to plan the perfect moment. Sarah’s manager Charlotte Hill told her she was to visit a school in Turangi and as part of the visit, she would get to go for a ride in a helicopter beforehand as a thank you.
“So I thought, ‘Awesome, that’s a cool little bonus,’” recalls Sarah. “I jumped in this helicopter with Ben Clark the pilot and off we went.”
But what Sarah didn’t know was her jaunt with Inflite Helicopters was all part of Vin’s elaborate ruse. As she and Ben were soaring high over the forest, he spotted a solitary and distressed figure on the hills below, waving desperately up at the chopper. Ben asked Sarah if it was alright if they checked it out.
“Of course I said yes,” she tells us. “And I have to admit, I was a little bit excited at that point because I thought it was turning into a rescue mission.
“We came in to land and Ben told me to stay in the helicopter while he checked it out. Meanwhile, I’m thinking what help I can be if there are injuries – if there’s a broken bone, that’s my area of expertise, I’ve broken 17!”
Seeing the figure on his knees and clutching his leg, Sarah went over to help the injured person back to the chopper. But as she got closer, the man ripped off his balaclava – and it was Vin!
“I was so shocked – and I knew instantly what was about to happen,” admits Sarah. “I knew there was no way he would have gone to all this effort just to take me hunting. And then Ben goes, ‘OK, I’ll see you in 24 hours!’ and took off.
“It was just us in the middle of nowhere, with no sound and no people. It was amazing. I really didn’t want to ruin the moment, but I was like, ‘What about my school visit?’” she recalls, laughing.
After being assured that there was never any school appearance and she wouldn’t be letting any kids down, Vin finally blurted out the little speech he’d been practising.
“In the first text Sarah ever sent me, she wrote ‘You have three wishes – the first is my phone number, so now you have two left,’” he says.
“Humour is important,” Sarah interrupts with a chuckle. “I needed to know if he had good banter!”
Vin continues, “I pulled out the ring and I said, ‘Sarah, you gave me three wishes and one is to marry you.’ I didn’t go on for too long because I could have got all emotional.”
A shocked Sarah quickly said yes, slipping on the stunning engagement ring before heading to a tent Vin had already pitched. It was equipped with coldweather gear, food and three bottles of Sarah’s favourite chocolate milk, which Vin had used to impress her on their first date.
“Vin actually asked me out through my flatmate,” Sarah explains. “He saw a picture of me on Facebook and wanted to meet me, which at first I thought was kind of creepy. But my flatmate had known him for six years and said he was a great guy, and then I figured that it would be a good story either way, so I agreed!”
Vin adds, “Her flatmate had told me if I really wanted to win her heart, I should give her this specific brand of chocolate milk on the date, so I did.”
Sarah confirms, “He won a few points there!”
And since that first Valentine’s Day date, the pair’s relationship has moved at lightning speed and they have already managed to fit in decades worth of experiences together – especially on the travel front.
“I’d grown enough to know exactly what I was looking for in a person,” Sarah shrugs. “I asked him all the hard questions during those first few dates.
“Also, he managed to see me at my best and at my worst in a really short space of time. Our second date was after the Halberg sport awards, where I was all glammed up, and the fourth time we saw each other was when I was in hospital after I broke my arm. He even met my mum then!”
The wheel deal
However, the lovebirds had distance to battle with – Sarah is based in Cambridge, where she needs to be for her BMX training as she prepares for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, while Vin was living in Auckland and working at an event photography company.
“Vin’s clocked up some serious kilometres coming down and seeing me,” says Sarah. “But he moved down here a couple of months ago, so that’s been awesome.”
The loved-up pair had discussed getting engaged before Vin’s proposal.
“I’m quite a feminist, I guess, and to me, getting engaged is a joint decision,” declares Sarah – and the pair even designed the ring together. So Vin knew that surprising his love would be tricky, which is why he went to such great lengths to ensure the plan went off without a hitch.
“I got a family friend to call Sarah pretending to be the principal of the school she was supposed to visit, and I got my brother to ring me to ask me to go to the movies on the day it was to take place. I even put a fake work event in my calendar for that day too. There were so many lies!” he laughs.
And to top off their amazing action-packed proposal, during their 24 hours on the mountain, the newly-engaged pair spotted four deer – something that keen hunter Vin still can’t believe.
“I come up here all the time and it can be hard to spot deer,” he tells us, shaking his head. “It was amazing. She’s definitely a good-luck charm.”
“When we were coming out of the forest, Vin goes, ‘That was the best 24 hours of my life!’” says Sarah with a huge smile. “It was definitely mine too.”
I asked him all the hard questions on those first few dates ... and he saw me at my worst’ best and
“We designed the ring together,” says Sarah. “We’re both outdoorsy,” the gorgeous athlete tells. “Our core characteristics and values are really similar.”
Sarah won the Women’s BMX silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics – and now she’s set for Tokyo in 2020.