Sarah Walker, who turned 21 this month, definitely came of age when she claimed the UCI BMX World Championship in Adelaide tonight.
Walker totally dominated the opposition, winning all three qualifying motos, her semifinal and the final in a brilliant display to complete her set of world championship medals.
She won the silver in 2007 in Canada and the bronze last year in China and she was never threatened in one of the most convincing victories in recent years.
The young New Zealander, who was disappointed with her fourth placing at the Beijing Olympics, said the major difference was a new-found belief in her own ability.
"That's by far the best I have ever ridden," Walker said. "It's the first time that I have believed that I could do it. I have probably had the skill and ability to win in the past but I have not believed enough in myself.
"I've trained really hard for the last few months, and have been really strong in the gym. As soon as I rode the track I was feeling my bike and was at one with it. I just had confidence that I had the ability and I had done the work."
Walker was delighted with her form not only in the final but throughout the day's five rides.
"I absolutely nailed it. I won every lap today and was faster than anyone else in every round. You have got to be happy with that."
Her only disappointment was that last year's champion Shanaze Reade and Beijing silver medallist Laetiita Le Corguille were missing with injury.
"Some might say that this win was soft because they were missing. I would have loved to have had them here because I was riding that well I believe I would have still won and won really well.
"I won every race easily and my times were pretty fantastic throughout the day."
She was delighted with her sub-32 second time for the final, her best of the day.
Walker said she chose the inside lane so she only had one side to contend with physically, and while she did not get the same snap from the start, she nailed her first big jump.
"I still had some track room in that lane and I knew once I really hit that first jump that I was in a good place. Then I just had to concentrate and not make a mistake from then on."
BikeNZ High Performance Director Mark Elliott said it was an outstanding display by Walker, and reiterated that she came to the championships with a new attitude and belief in her abilities.
He also praised the efforts of BikeNZ head coach, Canadian Ken Cools in his first world championship campaign with the team.
"Ken has always said that Sarah is the most gifted BMX rider in the world," Elliott said.
"He has stuck to getting the basics right with Sarah instead of looking for a change in approach.
"It's a great start for Ken's fulltime role with BikeNZ and I am sure this is not the last time we will see New Zealand MBX riders in the rainbow jersey."
Earlier Alexandra Williams (Pakuranga) produced a strong performance in her first world championship final, finishing sixth and was far from disgraced with her highly creditable sixth placing.
The only disappointment was with Beijing Olympian Marc Willers who crashed in his quarterfinal after being squeezed around the second corner on the narrow track and came down in a melee at the back of the pack on the second bend indoors at the Adelaide Showgrounds.
Willers was in behind the front two riders on the first corner and was slowed after his line was taken, to fall back to the chasing pack when the crash occurred.
The Cambridge rider finished second in his first heat and was brought down finishing last in his second. He bounced back with a superb win in his last moto to qualify and then placed second in his eighth final.
Willers said he was disappointed he did not get a better snap from the gates after starting well in all his previous races.
"That left me in the pack for the first corner which is always a problem in this field. I will now look towards a build up for next year although I will have surgery on my injured shoulder," Willers said.
Tomorrow is the Cruiser Class world championships (larger diameter wheel size) with Walker chasing a second world title for the weekend.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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