Sarah Walker is New Zealand’s first BMX Olympic medalist, having won Silver at the London Olympics in 2012. Having wanted to become an Olympian since she was just 8 years old, Sarah possesses the kind of drive that has ultimately led her to find success and continue to seek future success in her chosen sport BMX.
Sarah began her Trident High School career in 2002 and says she enjoyed her entire time at school and proudly says she was once a Trident pupil. Our high school years are some of our most formative, and finding like-minded peers that will go on to become lifelong friends is something many people treasure about their high school years. Like many people, Sarah acknowledges Trident as the place where she found she made those lifelong friendships after having started at Trident after starting not knowing anyone. Aside from making those important friendships, Sarah’s high school years were filled to the brim with her growing sporting career and knowledge that it was important she did well at school. With a focus to achieve at the sporting level she sought, Sarah also knew that sport wouldn’t last forever, so doing well in school was crucial. Doing well, while simultaneously travelling away to compete in BMX meant Sarah relied on the support from her teachers to be help her stay up to date with work. Sarah says each teacher she had challenged her in different ways which she loved, “I spent a lot of time off school with BMX and the support I had to keep up with my school work was invaluable. My favourite subject was PE but I also really loved the Sciences and Maths. I love learning new things and understanding them so I really enjoyed school”. It was lucky Sarah did enjoy school, because having dad, Graeme Walker, (ex Trident PE teacher) as a teacher meant she knew he was always up to date with how she was going in class!
While Sarah has numerous world titles and an Olympic Medal to be proud of, she is also proud that through her achievements many kiwis have now been exposed to BMX. This exposure means that younger kids are coming through in the sport and they are getting support and recognition at an earlier age.
During her career, Sarah has suffered set-backs through injuries, from which she has made fabulous come backs from, and these contribute to some of her highlights in BMX, being able call on her self-belief and push through obstacles. From winning Bronze at the 2015 World Champs after her biggest injury in 2014, followed by placing 3rd at a World Cup in Argentina at the end of 2018 after her last World Cup podium finish was in 2011, demonstrates the extent of Sarah’s drive! To be able to climb back to the top as Sarah has done has meant Sarah incorporated strict Goal Setting as part of her recovery. She says with goal setting, there needs to be a couple of steps beyond what we usually learn. Once a goal that scares you and pushes you is recognised, you need to believe you can achieve it, not just hope you can. Sarah says that our subconscious doesn't know the difference between the truth and a lie so she had to tell herself "I can win gold" leading into the London 2012 Olympics. It took her about 6 weeks of saying it to herself in the mirror every morning and every night but eventually she really believed she could. The next step was accepting that she could fail and that as long as she gave it her absolute best, that failure isn't a horrible or embarrassing thing. So everyday, she would train like she was going to win a Gold medal and when she won Silver, it really didn't matter because she had given it 100% and she was proud! “I have a mindset that we don't know what we can or can't do unless we try so I give it my best and see where it can take me! When I have been injured, I accept the situation, take any learnings and then continue giving my best to the next step.”
Trident consistently produces fine young sportspeople and Sarah has some advice for those who wish to make a career from their chosen sport “Make sure you include enjoyment/ fun into your training program, and give it 100% so no matter what the outcome is, you know you gave it everything! I wouldn't have a career as long as I have had if I didn't have these two things! Outside of those, even though I am in an individual sport, I couldn't make it without people to support me and help me be my best. Find who those people are who can help take you to the next level (eg: coach, gym trainer, psychologist, nutritionist, etc)”.
With a BMX riding as a career, it is clear Sarah is fuelled by adrenaline and courage and says it is her life goal to keep doing things that require courage. When she is scared of something and does it anyway, she feels really empowered and proud of herself. “I feel like I am really living life. So no matter what I do, being brave is a goal for whatever I want to do in the future!”.