Published Saturday 11 August 2012

New Zealand BMX champion Sarah Walker completed some unfinished business at the Olympics today.
Walker, 24, and one of the world’s leading riders for several years, worked hard to earn the silver medal in the women’s event.
That success will help atone for her disappointment at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when, as one of the favourites, she finished fourth.
Though she made no mistake in the final, following super-slick Colombian Mariana Pajon all the way and finishing a clear second, Walker had some flutters on her path to the final.
In the three-race semi-finals, she needed to finish in the top four in her section to advance to the final. Her finishing placings in the semis were fifth, fourth and third – good enough to advance, if only just.
The conditions were obviously quite challenging. There were a number of spills in the women’s races and in the men’s semi-finals, New Zealander Marc Willers hurt himself when he fell in his first outing.
He showed spirit when he got back on his bike and finished the race, but when he lined up again he was clearly not at his best and trailed in last. His qualifying hopes gone, he did not contest the third race.
In the women’s final, Walker recorded a time of 38.113s, behind the flying Pajon’s 37.706s. Laura Smulders of The Netherlands was third in 38.231s.
New Zealand BMX coach Ken Cools described it as the best ride he had ever seen from Walker.
The Bay of Plenty rider showed a magnificent big-time temperament today.
Going into her third ride of the semis, she was on the point of elimination, but came through with a very solid ride. In the final, when she didn’t have the kindest of lane draws, she was outstanding.
“The key was overcoming my fears,” Walker said later. “I never really believed in myself in Beijing.”
She mentioned that she had put in two years of hard work with sports psychologist Dave Galbraith and that it had paid off today.
She was proud that when the chips were down going in the semi-finals she had got the job done and with how she’d ridden in the final.
Willers, who has a world ranking of No 4, was at a loss to explain his fall in his first ride of the day, but it certainly hurt his legs and really ruled him out of contention for a place in the final.