BMX rider Sarah Walker on her election to the International Olympic Committee
Competing at the Olympic Games was a childhood dream for Sarah Walker as she grew up in rural New Zealand.
That dream became reality in 2008 when BMX made its first appearance at the Olympic Games. At just 20 years old, Sarah Walker was ranked No 1 in the world and was one of the favourites for the Olympic title in Beijing. She finished fourth. The following year she clinched the UCI world title, and in 2012 claimed the silver medal at the London Olympic Games.
An injury-plagued build-up to Rio 2016 meant the Kiwi BMX star failed to even qualify for this year’s Games. Instead she found herself following the action from New Zealand where she co-hosted a nightly television show dedicated to the Olympics. Then she received a call announcing her election to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes’ Commission. She flew to Rio on the next available plane.
“To become a member of the IOC will be the most incredible experience,” says the athlete, who already gives back to the sport as a member of the UCI BMX Commission. “I dreamed of becoming an Olympian when I was eight years old, so to be part of the IOC is still a bit surreal. It’s a huge honour and I will do everything I can to represent the athletes and bring in a perspective from my own journey.
“My role as a member of the Commission is to represent the voices of the athletes, to take ideas from all around New Zealand, Oceania and the world to the IOC and work with the other members to grow the impact of the Olympics and what they can achieve. I have met all the other members and we are all passionate about the Olympic movement and we want what is best for the athlètes.
“I am the first cyclist ever to be elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission and part of the reason I was considered for this role was that I come from cycling. I see that as a great vote of confidence for our sport!”
Sarah Walker has reached star status in New Zealand and despite the huge disappointment of missing out on competing in Rio, she drew a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the Games from a different angle.
“I really enjoyed witnessing the Rio Olympic Games from home and seeing the impact that excellence, friendship and respect at the Olympics has on the population,” she says.
“When I talk to school children and ask who is going to be an Olympian one day, the majority put their hand up. That is so cool. Seeing first-hand what an Olympics can do for a country was a real eye-opener, and even though I would rather have been competing, learning more about other Olympic sports and athletes’ stories captivated me.
“I have really enjoyed being part of the UCI BMX Commission. I’ve enjoyed the challenges and also challenging others when it comes to finding solutions and deciding on the direction of the sport. Now I hope that I can bring ideas to the IOC Athletes’ Commission and make the most of every opportunity within the IOC.”
UCI President Brian Cookson welcomed Sarah Walker’s election: “Sarah is an incredibly talented athlete who has achieved some great results throughout her career so far. She is also a selfless athlete who is determined to give back to the sport. She is a valued member of the UCI BMX Commission and her appointment to the IOC Athletes’ Commission will benefit the Olympic movement and the sport of cycling.”