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Oceania Ranking Round - C3
North Shore City, New Zealand, February 16, 2008
Kirkham, Walker win
New Zealand's Sarah Walker dominated the first round of the UCI BMX Oceania ranking series at North Harbour today. The 20-year-old from Kawerau easily won the final today, and victory in tomorrow's second round will assure her of the Oceania title and a spot in the Beijing Olympics.
Compatriot Marc Willers had a tougher time, finishing sixth in a physical final won by Australian Jared Graves although he still leads the Oceania series.
Walker won her opening two motos to top qualifiers for the straight final with six Australians and New Zealand junior Victoria Hill (New Plymouth).
The cruiser world champion was best out of the gate in the final and in front by the first corner, before clearing out for the win ahead of Australians Melissa Mankowski and Krystal Cranfield, currently third in the Oceania rankings.
"That was really good. I was quite nervous for the final," Walker said. "It's always adds some pressure racing in front of a home crowd but it's good to have the support too.
"I've picked up a cold this week but I was quite pleased with my racing today," she added. "The track at North Harbour is more steep off the start and so it is less of a strength track. That means the racing is always much closer. I got a good start in the final and just had to keep the speed up. I've got six wins and a second in the series so if I can pick up a win tomorrow that will mean I have the perfect record and will wrap up the Oceania title."
Willers, who finished second in the SuperCross in Spain last weekend, also won two of his motos and was impressive in winning his semifinal ahead of Australian Jared Graves.
The other semifinal saw Australian Brian Kirkham, who won all three qualifying motos, continue his hot form to claim the win ahead of world No 6 Luke Madill, who only qualified ninth. High profile Australian Kamakazi, who had won two qualifying motos, lost out down the final straight to miss out on a place in the final.
Willers, who drew the unfavoured outside gate, was slow out of the start and was pushed wide on the first corner. Graves shot to the lead from Madill and Kirkham as Willers made ground. With Graves clear in the lead, Willers pushed up to Kirkham and Madill but was forced wide, losing grip on his bars and eventually settling for sixth.
"That was not good," a disappointed Willers said. "I made a mistake at the start. I just missed it. I knew that first had pretty much gone but I did manage to get back despite being hung out on the first corner.
"I was chasing down Luke and pushed hard but got cut off and just managed to stay on," he added. "I am going to be pretty focused tomorrow to make amends. I'm going to be a pretty angry rider tomorrow."
Australian champion Sam Willougby took out the junior men's final ahead of Tauranga's Kurt Pickard and Australian Steven Janssen.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Getty Images
Qualifying Elite men 1 Brian Kirkham (Aus) 3 points 2 Jared Graves (Aus) 7 3 Steven Wong (HGK) 7 4 Kama Kazi (Aus) 7 5 Marc Willers (NZl) 7 6 Jamie Gray (Aus) 8 7 Glenn Codega (Aus) 9 8 Alex Cameron (Aus) 9 Elite women 1 Sarah Walker (NZl) 4 points 2 Krystal Cranfield (Aus) 6 3 Ziggy Callan (Aus) 6 4 Nicole Callisto (Aus) 7 5 Melissa Mankowski (Aus) 7 6 Tanya Bailey (NZl) 10 7 Tania Carson (NZl) 10 8 Victoria Hill (NZl) 10 Junior men 1 Sam Willoughby (Aus) 3 points 2 Kurt Pickard (NZl) 4 3 Steven Janssen (Aus) 6 4 Anthony Dean (Aus) 8 5 Joshua Callan (Aus) 8 6 Luke Londema (Aus) 9 7 Andrew McKenzie (NZl) 13 8 Michael Chasteauneuf (Aus) 13 Semifinals Elite men Semifinal 1 1 Marc Willers (NZl) 2 Jared Graves (Aus) 3 Alex Cameron (Aus) 4 Jamie Gray (Aus) Semifinal 2 1 Brian Kirkham (Aus) 2 Luke Madill (Aus) 3 Billy Jolliffe (Aus) 4 Tony Wilcock (Hamilton) Finals Elite men 1 Jared Graves (Aus) 2 Luke Madill (Aus) 3 Brian Kirkham (Aus) 4 Billy Jolliffe (Aus) 5 Alex Cameron (Aus) 6 Marc Willers (NZl) 7 Tony Wilcock (Hamilton) 8 Jamie Gray (Aus) Elite Women 1 Sarah Walker (NZl) 2 Melissa Mankowski (Aus) 3 Krystal Cranfield (Aus) 4 Tanya Bailey (NZl) 5 Ziggy Callan (Aus) 6 Victoria Hill (NZl) 7 Nicole Callisto (Aus) 8 Tania Carson (NZl) Junior men 1 Sam Willoughby (Aus) 2 Kurt Pickard (NZl) 3 Steven Janssen (Aus) 4 Joshua Callan (Aus) 5 Luke Londema (Aus) 6 Michael Chasteauneuf (Aus) 7 Anthony Dean (Aus) 8 Andrew McKenzie (NZl)