Don't be afraid to crash

20:28, Dec 04 2013
Sarah Walker
OLYMPIAN: Sarah Walker speaking at lthe Nelson Sports Awards.

Olympic BMX champion Sarah Walker got her first BMX bike when she was 10. It was an Elf, a brand which no longer exists.

She rode firmly into the heart of Kiwis when she won a silver medal at the London Olympics, despite breaking a collarbone three months earlier.

The down-to-earth sports star was guest speaker at Sport Tasman's Nelson Sport Awards last week, and took two minutes out of her busy schedule to talk with The Leader.

What was the first bike you owned?

I've been riding bikes since I was three, so who knows what the first proper bike was?

Did it have pink ribbons?


No, it was blue.

How many bikes do you own now?

Three. One is a mountain bike, one is a bike to go the gym and one is my BMX . . . so not too extravagant.

How important do you think growing up in Kawarau was to developing your BMX riding skills?

I don't think I would be riding BMX if I wasn't born in Kawarau. The main reason I started BMX was because we had to travel to Tauranga once a week to watch my brother do BMX which was an hour and quarter each way.

I didn't want to travel that distance to watch. So the fact we had to drive to the BMX track, probably was the reason I started. So I think it was really important. We were the only family in Kawarau that did BMX. Because of that I would always I would always just compete against my brother.

Because he was younger than me if he did something I had to make sure I did it too. We were always competing against each other to go one better and one better. So I think it was really important that I didn't have other girls to ride with and I had to do that, because I wouldn't be where I am today.

What means more to you - Olympic Silver or World Cup win?

Olympic Silver, for sure. It is just that next level and nothing quite compares to the arena itself and the hype that comes with it.

What does it take to be a good BMX rider?

The natural talent of BMX is really quite weird. It was probably only four years ago, I've been riding for 15 years, I actually worked out how to explain to someone else how to jump, or how I would do it. Because up until that point I just didn't know.

It was something I could do, and just would just go and do, without really thinking about it. I think it is important to have kind of that natural, don't think about it and just do it [talent]. But having fun, and once you are at that point you have to work hard to get any better.

What advice would you give to young riders who want to be really really good?

Don't be afraid to crash. It's part of the sport and you are going to crash multiple times a year and many, many times in your lifetime. If you are okay with that then you will be pretty good. If you are too afraid to crash or crashing can get to you then you won't quite make it, I don't think.

What is the worst injury you've had?

Dislocating my shoulder before the Olympics last year. [It was] extremely painful and way too close to the Olympics, but I managed to recover in time and do the best I could.

Do you eat beef and lamb?

Definitely, who wouldn't?

How do you like to relax?

On the computer going through iTunes making sure my playlists are sorted. To be honest I haven't had a lot of time off to even know what the answer to that question is lately. Sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing.

What is a piece of advice that has stayed with you?

I think something I took from Hamish Carter when he was in his [Olympic] race with Bevan Docherty. He was in the run he wasn't thinking about the fact he was going to go gold or silver with Bevan.

He started thinking about the process if he was actually running the best he could? So was he being as efficient as he could with his running? And the answer was no, so he broke it down and made sure his running technique was the best that he could do and he ran away from Bevan and won gold.

It wasn't until he reached the blue mat that he actually realised it was the result of thinking about this process and making it really simple. I did that kind of similar thing with my racing in London, just breaking it down and keeping it simple and focusing on what I could do to the best performance.

What is something someone might not know?

I played piano for seven years. I struggled a little in reading music. Mum would write down the notes for me and I would learn the piece off by heart, then I would pretend to read the music, but I would play it from my memory.