UCI BMX World Championships: Kiwi contender and IOC member Sarah Walker on all things BMX
Former UCI World Champion and Olympic silver medallist at London 2012, Sarah Walker is currently preparing for the Worlds in Rock Hill (USA). We find out how she juggles training with her roles as member of the UCI BMX Commission and, since August 2016, member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission.
Sarah: Thanks! Honestly, I'm not totally sure what the 2017 Worlds will hold for me. I raced the first World Cup in Papendal where I made the final and since then, I have become stronger and faster so it could be good but I'm sure everyone else has too! At the end of the day, all I can do is do the best start I can, pedal as fast as I can and be as smooth as I can.
It's good to see you back on the BMX programme. How are things looking regarding the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships as an athlete?
Do you feel your role has changed now that you're also a member of the IOC?
Sarah: I've definitely had a lot to learn so far (and still learning a lot), but it's pretty special to be a part of the Olympics in this way! Probably the biggest change has been working training around some of the meetings we have and being on the Executive Board of our Continental National Olympic Committee as well as our National Olympic Committee! But when I'm riding my bike, I'm in the moment and that hasn't changed.
How often do you discuss BMX Racing with the IOC?
Sarah: Within the Athletes’ Commission, we represent the athletes from all the Summer and Winter Olympic sports. We discuss things around athletes having life balance, support and funding to name a few. The change of numbers for Tokyo to 24 men and 24 women has been something that's big news in BMX. In many sports there will be a reduction in the number of athletes competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Looking at it like this, I'm glad that BMX reached equality without a reduction in the total number of BMX athletes at the Olympics. I think the important thing now will be trying to have a qualifying system that does everything possible to make sure the best BMX athletes are in Tokyo representing their countries. It will be important for our sport to have enough countries represented as the more people who watch our sport around the world, the better it is for our sport and its future at the Olympic Games - I want to see it there for the future generations!
Is Tokyo 2020 on your programme as an athlete?
Sarah: I've always said I will do BMX as long as I love it. I still love our sport and I don't think I would have been able to come back from injuries if I didn't love it.
What has your best UCI World Championships result been?
Sarah: Elite Women UCI World Champion (20") in 2009, Elite Women UCI World Champion (Cruiser) in 2007, 2009.
The 2017 Worlds in Rock Hill are going to be the biggest ever. Are you happy with the development of BMX in general?
Sarah: I love the idea that the sport is continuing to grow and evolve, but I think it will be interesting to see what the evolution of BMX racing will actually look like (whether it be track layout, jump sizes, racing format etc)! I think we all need to think about how to make our sport so incredible that the Olympics will never want to lose us!
Who are your picks for Elite World titles this year?
Sarah: Would be pretty awesome to see Maris Strombergs take it out in the men. It would also be pretty awesome for me to be a UCI World Champion again(!), but unless I start beating Laura Smulders next week at training, I'm going to have her down for the win! Haha.
Last words/thanks to: I think there are some incredible ideas for our sport out there in the minds of BMX athletes and I'd love to hear those ideas! My role on the IOC & at the UCI is to be the voice of as many people as possible so please get in touch on my Facebook page (/sarahwalkerbmx)!