BMX babe Sarah Walker’s amaz­ing en­gage­ment

I’m on top of the world!

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - CONTENTS -

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!”

Masked­man

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.

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