When she was a teenager, Sarah Walker joined other local riders on the first lap of the Rotorua BMX track on Te Ngae Rd.
More than a decade later she has come full circle. On Saturday, the Olympic silver medallist led a group on a lap of the new $1.6 million dollar track during the official opening at Waipa - a track she helped design.
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"It's pretty awesome," Walker said.
"I was part of the opening for the original Rotorua track when I was 14 or 15, so it's quite cool to still be doing the sport all these years later and be involved with the evolution of the Rotorua BMX Club."
She spoke at the opening alongside downhill mountain biker Tuhoto-Ariki Pene who started his two-wheel career in BMX and spoke about his own BMX journey as well as the cultural significance of the new track's name - Te Papa o Te Kauri.
Walker said it was good to see so many children at the opening, excited about their new track, and that there were so many different pathways available. Her own brother Matt Walker was eighth on the Enduro World Series this year.
"I know a bit about downhill through my brother so to see Tuhoto and what he's doing is pretty special. I've known their family pretty much his whole life."
She said the success of the track build came down to the inclusive approach those steering the project took throughout. They drew on her international racing experience in designing the track.
"I can't believe it's been five years [since the start of the project]. We came over to Rotorua a couple of times and had a massive amount of input in the track design meetings. In those meetings we had a 10-year-old, myself, a 15-year-old, a 40-year-old, there were all different categories.
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"I was able to give some insight from an international perspective of what we're riding overseas, the different surfaces used around the world, that was really helpful I think for the club. Then you also had the kids saying the parts they wanted to have fun on and they were able to compromise between the different levels and create a track that caters to everyone.
"The fact that they were so willing and open to have the athlete feedback, not just as a token but they actually genuinely listened and took it on board, that has showed in the track they produced."
The committee behind the new track were persistent and fearless in their desire for it to be a world class facility capable of hosting international events. Speaking at the opening, project co-ordinator Melanie Short said there were times when that got tough but the end result was worth it.
"There were times of tension because being world class means more money and more time. There have been some challenges but when you look around the track today it was absolutely worth it and we are absolutely delighted to bring this to the BMX community of New Zealand and beyond."
Rotorua BMX Club president Aimee McGregor said it was "unbelievable" how much volunteer work went into the track.
"We're here now, we're tired but it has been a heaps of fun. We've made some really good friendships along the way and what we've created is truly stunning.
"I'm particularly proud of what Sarah mentioned which was about listening to the riders. A few weeks ago, the first jump wasn't quite right and they weren't as stoked with it as we would've liked. We had to change it which meant more dollars, more time and more stress but we did it and the reward is now we're hearing awesome feedback from the elite riders and also our younger riders as well."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick spoke glowingly of what the club had achieved. The reserve land the track sits on was leased to the club by the Rotorua Lakes Council.
"You had a vision and it has become a reality. That is a phenomenal thing in our place, Rotorua. Securing this footprint of land, that once was a boggy old horse track, was the first decision deputy mayor Dave Donaldson and I and Trevor Maxwell made when we became the new local government in 2013.
"We just nailed making sure that this was going to be used for BMX. I know the physical work started in 2018 but there was a huge amount of work fundraising, applying for sponsorship and then the build.
"The many components of a project like this are hugely complex. What I love about this facility is it was designed and built to meet the requirements of our elite riders but outside of club sessions it is open to anyone else to use. That's something that we really wanted and stressed to funders and sponsors.
"I'm told it's already having a huge impact in getting our tamariki on bikes. This is just going to grow exponentially."