BMX: Walker leads NZ team

Sarah Walker. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sarah Walker. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Olympic silver medallist Sarah Walker and world No 7 Marc Willers will lead a strong New Zealand team named today for July's BMW world championships in Auckland.

A 15-strong team was named today by BikeNZ for elite racing at the championships to be staged at Vector Arena on July 24-28.

New regulations limiting the qualifying numbers for the New Zealand team resulted in some strong competition for places in the team named at the conclusion of the summer series selection events and national championships in Cambridge.

The Californian-based Willers is the only rider to gain automatic entry based on his world ranking and Walker was selected on her 2012 performances that culminated in her silver medal in London. She had recovered from a dislocated shoulder to compete at the Olympics but has since undergone surgery to repair the shoulder, returning to her bike for the first time last week.

"There is good depth in both elite men and junior men, while the team will be well led by the experience of Marc Willers and Sarah Walker," BikeNZ coach Ryan Hollows said.

"It will be interesting to watch our younger riders develop through to the championships and over the next couple years.

"It is the first time that New Zealand has ever hosted the BMX world championships and that is going to be very exciting for our sport. With it being staged at the Vector Arena it is also a superb opportunity for us to profile the sport at the highest level to New Zealanders.

"At the same time we are looking for riders that have the ability to contribute towards securing Olympic qualifying places for 2016 and the ability to win a medal in Rio. For some of the riders the next 18 months will be spent developing towards that objective."

London Olympian Kurt Pickard (Tauranga) has retained his place in the team along with Matt Cameron (New Plymouth) and Daniel Franks (Christchurch). The newcomers include Kaiapoi's Trent Jones, up from the junior ranks, and Trent Woodcock (Pukekohe), who was a double junior world championship medallist two years ago.

Walker will be joined by New Plymouth's Victoria Hill in the elite women's team, with the Taranaki rider dominating the weekend competition. She also competed in last year's world championships in Birmingham.

The team members who are part of BikeNZ's high performance unit will complete a training camp next week with combinations to compete at the Oceania championships in Brisbane next month and six weeks of racing in the US in June and early July. That group will complete a final training camp in Brisbane before the world championships.

The Challenge (age group) team will be confirmed later this week.

The BikeNZ elite team for the UCI BMX world championships in Auckland on July 24-28 is:

Elite men: Marc Willers (Cambridge), Kurt Pickard (Tauranga), Matt Cameron (new Plymouth) Trent Jones (Kaiapoi), Daniel Franks (Christchurch), Trent Woodcock (Pukekohe). Reserves: Cody Stevens (Tauranga), Nick Fox (Gisborne).

Elite women: Sarah Walker (Rotorua), Victoria Hill (New Plymouth). Reserve: Hayley Gedye (New Plymouth).

Junior elite men: Cody Hobbs (Te Awamutu), Ryan Lewis (Te Awamutu), Todd Barry (Cambridge), Jarrod Browning (Cambridge), Donald Ross (Whangarei), Ryan Berney (North Harbour). Reserves: Luke Roguski (Tauranga), Stefan Gabel (Tauranga).

Junior elite women: Hannah Sarten (New Plymouth). Reserve: Monique Smith (Gisborne).

- APNZ

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