It wasn’t long ago that the world’s biggest sporting event was in London and the chance of bumping into Usain Bolt down your local pub was greater than any other time in life. Okay… so that never happened to us, but better yet we randomly bumped into Kiwi BMX racer, Sarah Walker, on London Bridge, hours after her Olympic silver medal success on the track! Her face beaming out from a chauffeur driven car, with her silver medal glistening against the street-lights, catching our intrigued eyes. On our bike for a nighttime cycle through the city, we found ourselves racing across the bridge to catch up with her for a chat. We didn’t do the interview right there (although of course we managed to catch up with the car) but we got back in touch to ask the 24-year old BMXer about what it was like to get on her bike to be part of the greatest show on earth and how it felt to pedal away with a silver medal for New Zealand…
Interview by Hannah Bailey
First off, well done on your Olympic performance! It looked like a tough race and course, how did it feel to take the silver medal?
It felt like I had won Gold! I started the day off with a 5th, which I didn’t really expect but it was great! It was a good challenge for me to keep calm and focused and do what I needed to do to make the final. I focused on everything I needed to and nothing else and I couldn’t have asked for a better performance!
How does it feel to compete in something so important, that has taken up years of training? Did you find it a really pressurized situation?
On the morning of the final, I broke down as it hit me the importance of the day and what it meant to me. I realised that on this day, I could win a Gold Medal (which is scary!), but I could also lose a Gold Medal (which is also scary!). I had worked so hard to get to that point and I knew I was ready. After I let out all the emotion, nerves were there a little but after the first race was done, I relaxed and let myself do what I do best, race my BMX bike really fast! Going into the final, I had no nerves. I felt more determined and focused than any other point in my life. I had accepted the moment and was ready to face it 100%- no holding back, even if it meant I was lying on the ground in the first corner.
Has it always been your dream to race at the Olympics?
When I was 8 years old, I remember watching Danyon Loader win his Gold Medal for swimming, watching him receive his medal and the national anthem playing not only for him, but all of New Zealand. I decided at the moment that I wanted to be an Olympian. I just had to figure out a sport to do it in!
When and how did you start BMXing?
I started BMX when I was 10. My younger brother, Matt (then 8), got a BMX bike for Christmas and as a family, we travelled to and from the BMX track in Tauranga (1.25hrs drive each way). I eventually got sick of having to watch him so had a go myself and haven’t looked back since! I just loved it!
What’s the scene like for girls in NZ and worldwide?
There isn’t much depth in NZ but it is constantly growing in the younger generation, which is great! I think with the coverage and publicity we get with the Olympics, it will only continue to grow.
What’s your favourite thing about being part of the scene?
Giving back to the sport. It’s given so much to me that I want to see others make it as well! I can’t wait for the day when the younger girls of NZ start beating me! I will give them all the help they need to get there!
What advice do you have for girls wanting to get into BMX? How to go about doing so?
BMX is a great sport because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to get into. If you get down to a local BMX club, you can potentially borrow a bike there to see if you like it and join in the club days. The clubs are more than happy to help new riders and point them in the right direction!
What important characteristics do you need to be a rad BMXer?
Courage is hugely important for BMX. Some of the stuff we do is scary and will always be scary no matter how good or old you get! No matter what, I think it is most important to enjoy what you are doing.
Did you enjoy being in London?
I loved being in London. They put on a great Games. Everything was organised and everyone was friendly.
What was your highlight from the games?
Highlight of the games was definitely standing on the podium with the Columbian (Mariana Pajon) and the Dutchie (Laura Smaulders)! I couldn’t imagine being part of a cooler podium (besides me being on the top step). The girls that were there deserved to be. We all road a great race and the Columbian girl was the fastest on the day. I spent a lot of my final weeks build up with Laura so when I crossed the line and looked back to see her, I was almost as happy for her as I was for me!
Anything crazy happen?
It’s funny because that morning she (Laura) told me she felt like today was going to be a great day for us both! It’s crazy because the evening before racing as I was going to bed, I wrote an email to my sports psych saying that I wasn’t worried about the Aussie, the French or the Brit, but I couldn’t stop picturing the Columbian girl beating me! Premonitions maybe?
What’s it like to be part of the biggest event in the world?
You try not to think about how big it is. I don’t think you can avoid it, but at least accept it is what it is, move on and do your job. Then enjoy it after!
What have you got planned for the rest of the year and will you be back for Rio 2016?
I will do everything I can do to be in Rio 2016. I know I can get faster and stronger but for now, I am having a little bit of time off while I visit schools, sponsors and BMX tracks around the country.
Finally, what other activities/things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy watching movies at home or making video edits with my GoPro’s. For my holiday after the Olympics, I spent a week down the South Island of New Zealand skiing, my first love!
For more info on Sarah check out sarahwalker96.com and if you fancy getting in the game yourself, head over to britishcycling.org.uk/bmx