All Sarah Walker ever wanted to do was please her mum and dad. Now the 24-year-old from Kawerau has an Olympic silver medal to show for it.
Walker, in an exclusive conversation with Fairfax Media after her heroics at the London BMX arena yesterday, has revealed that a chance viewing of a video her parents, Sue and Graham, shot in Beijing four years ago had inspired her to her heroics at the 2012 Olympics.
Walker finished fourth in the Beijing Olympic BMX competition, and coming so close, yet so far, from the medals took her a lot to get over.
As she walked between the post-medal ceremony press conference and her next obligation yesterday at the Olympic venue in east London, the charismatic bike rider with the million-kilowatt smile revealed how she had been fuelled to push for the medal after viewing the video her parents had made of the Beijing race.
"I could hear them yelling for me, and I knew they were so passionate they just really, really wanted me to win," she said.
"I could hear almost the hurt in them when I didn't win and also that sympathy. I tried not to think about that today - I didn't want that pressure.
"I didn't feel like I let them down. They say they're proud of me no matter what. I know they wanted me to have this just as much as I do. It was pretty cool they were here for it."
Walker's father, Graham, a schoolteacher, said he had been blown away by the toll the Beijing experience took on his daughter.
"I have never seen the girl so upset, she cried for two to three hours. It was unbelievable. This time to see that smile on her face - that's worth millions of dollars, billions actually."
Walker said it had only sunk in what she had achieved, after sneaking into the final via her third and last run in the moto-cross style semifinals, when she had been pulling on her tracksuit before heading for her post-competition drug-testing.
She had finished fifth in her first semi, then fourth, then third, before coming home second in the one-off medal race.
"This really does feel like a gold medal to me," she said.
"Going into this week I truly believed I could win. This morning I woke up and I guess I had doubts in my mind and that bit of fear. I kind of felt that as I went into that first race and to improve over each race as much as I did and play it pretty calm was so pleasing.
"I really felt cool and collected as each race went on and I improved. To finish with the silver medal I felt like I won it, definitely. I rode really well and [Colombian] Mariana [Pajon] just rode better than me today."
Not that Walker was surprised to find herself chasing home the Colombian. She had a pretty fair idea in her mind that was exactly what she would be doing.
"Last night I had this dream Mariana won and I was second. I was like 'damnit, she keeps beating me, I can't get this image out of my head, it's really frustrating'. To race in this final and for that to happen ... I did what I needed to in those motos qualifying for the final, and it did come down to that last race to even be in that final.
"BMX is just a crazy sport. If I wasn't doing it, standing on the sideline, honestly I don't know how we do it. But putting on my helmet, racing my BMX bike around the track I'm almost a different person. I just love that challenge, that fear, that excitement about everything that is out sport."
The pretty bike rider, whose boyfriend Ian Seymour was part of the New Zealand rowing eight which came close to qualifying for London, also revealed she had to shake loose a few late self-doubts before her medal-winning heroics.
"This morning I woke up and I was like 'this is the Olympics, this is it, this is the big day'. It was scary to think that all that training over four years comes down to this one day - not even one day, it's only 38 seconds.
"I had a bit of a moment this morning when I broke down and cried, just because I realised that today I could fail. But then I realised today I could also succeed, and I did that."
- © Fairfax NZ News