When Sarah Walker made it to the end of her international season in one piece this year, she had plenty of reason to celebrate.
The Kawerau BMX star and Olympic silver medalist has suffered more than her fair share of injuries during the past few years.
A shocking crash in the US last September (broken arm and concussion) meant she couldn't compete for nine months, eventually making her return during the BMX World Championships in July this year. Walker then raced three World Cup events before returning home injury-free recently.
"I didn't realise how much fear that I had overcome until I finished [that trip]," she said. "When I finished that last race, and knew that I was going home in one piece, it was like a weight off my shoulders. It was a bit overwhelming, actually."
Walker is back home at her training base in Cambridge and enjoying a short break before ramping up for an Olympic season.
During her recent four-month trip overseas, Walker posted plenty of good times on the world stage and explained she had felt really comfortable on her bike.
"I was riding the best I have ever ridden before or after the crash," Walker, 27, said.
"I have done some jumps that I have never done before, that I have wanted to do for a long time ... and I have just felt really comfortable on my bike."
Her best finish while overseas this season was a sixth placing in the final of the Supercross World Cup event in Argentina last month. She also picked up a bronze medal in the time-trial event at the BMX World Championships in Belgium.
"I made it right through to the final [in Argentina] which was my first final since April last year, I think, which was a huge milestone during the trip."
While Walker didn't make another final during her tour, she said she was happy with her qualifying times and knew she wasn't far off the world's best riders.
She said if she could keep away from any more injuries she would be in a great position come the Olympics next year. Walker said she was well on track to qualify for the Rio Olympics but had to continue to pick up points on the world rankings during events next year.
Her love for the sport had helped her stay motivated during her most recent layoff with injury.
"I remember lying in bed with my arm broken and not being able to do anything [with] my concussion, and I just wanted to be on my bike again," she said.
"And I wanted to be sore from the gym, or riding my bike, rather than being sore because of an injury."
She said when she got back into the gym this year, that memory helped her work even harder to get back to her best.
"Every gym session that I did, I failed in at least one thing every time because I went until I simply couldn't do it any more.
"I have not had that appreciation in the past [for gym training] so it has been really good."
Walker said she had overcome a lot mentally this year, especially when it came to waiting for races and knowing she might get injured again. She said to fight any nerves she simply focused on what she needed to do well to perform.
"What I do is focus on the process of how I will get through certain things on the track.
"For example, I just focus on how to get a good start and what I need to do ... then my mind does not have any space to focus on crashing or feeling scared. And that has helped so much this year."
Walker visited the Rio Olympics' BMX venue during a recent trip to Brazil.
She said all the riders who visited the course had some serious concerns about the safety of the track, and had asked the organisers to make some changes.
"We turned up on the Friday for practice and there were a few jumps on the track that were just silly, people would have gone to hospital if they had tried to ride it," she said.
Walker, who is a life member at the Rotorua BMX Club, will race for the club at the North Island BMX champs in Taupo this coming weekend. She was looking forward to racing at a New Zealand event again for the first time in a long time.