Gavel / Caroline battles another ‘bump’ in the road

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World BMX champion Caroline Buchanan… “I need to get my finances straight, plan a wedding, plan being a human and to put being an athlete to one side for a bit.” Photo: Caroline Buchanan Facebook

CAROLINE Buchanan said she needed a rest. She just didn’t plan on her rest eventuating in such dramatic circumstances.

Tim Gavel
Tim Gavel.

The eight-times World BMX and mountain bike champion is about two months into her recovery from horrific injuries suffered in a buggy crash on a farm near Cooma just after Christmas.

Caroline suffered a broken sternum, two collapsed lungs, bleeding around her heart and a broken nose. At one stage she was struggling to breath, she had blood and fluid drained from her lungs, never mind the four-hour trip in an ambulance to Canberra Hospital before spending four days in intensive care.

For Caroline, it is just another bump in the road to achieving her goals. She has had to overcome plenty of bumps in the past.

Her family home was burnt down in the 2003 Canberra fires and in the same year her brother suffered a broken neck in a bike crash. In 2008 she was deemed to be too young to compete at the 2008 Olympics, in 2012 she was ranked as the number one BMX rider in the world heading into the London Olympics before finishing fifth. She was also one of the favourites heading into the Rio Olympics but crashed in the finals.

In 2017 she was beginning to believe her luck was starting to change.

“At the end of last year, quite ironically, I posted a video on my Instagram, it was a recap of 2017. I had a fantastic year; I had won so many events across multiple cycling disciplines,” she says.

“I was on a great buzz but I had this sense that something was going to go wrong. I hadn’t had any injuries and then, sure enough, I got this injury, but I think it was really time for me to have a rest and switch off. I have put so many life things to the side. I’ve been engaged for a year and a half, and I had not even thought about the wedding.

“So this injury has been a bit of a blessing. I have been able to sit back and think. I need to get my finances straight, plan a wedding, plan being a human and to put being an athlete to one side for a bit.”

Given the extent of injuries, a mere mortal would probably hesitate before rushing back into participating in extreme sports. Caroline, if anything, is using it as motivation.

“I seem to respond quite well to adversity, always bouncing back. Whether it’s the year after the Olympics or after our house burnt down, it seems to light that spark inside me to take it to the next level.”

With a team of experts at the AIS guiding her rehabilitation, she is planning to up the ante in her quest for success. Not content with attempting to qualify for the BMX race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Caroline is now looking to add the Freestyle Park competition to her Olympic schedule. BMX Freestyle, which takes place within a skate-park style arena, has been added to the Olympic program for Tokyo.

In fact, she has come as close as possible in treating the latest setback as a positive.

“This time around it’s exciting for me. I have always been afraid of getting injuries, so now I have sustained an injury that I couldn’t possibly get on a bike. Now I guess I know my limits,” she says.

Caroline’s limits would be regarded as extreme by most. Obstacles are used for motivation. Success is often gauged by the hurdles faced in the journey rather than the eventual outcome. Whatever the results she has shown that she is capable of overcoming whatever life throws in front of her.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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