In the years that have passed since Zoe Buckman last competed on the Olympic stage, the Australian athlete has faced a series of battles that almost ended.
The Canberran has suffered serious injuries, been abandoned by supporters, “disaffected” from athletics, lived in a city without friends or family, quit a job he didn’t enjoy and lost his job. work – a long list of trials that frustrated and worried him.
But at 34, Buckman has rebounded and is aiming to become a three-time Olympian in Paris.
Making him come back more impressive and moving away; while he competed in the 1500 meters at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Games, he is now chasing a place in the 5000 meters. Paris 2024.
Earlier this year A five kilometer Sydney Harbor eventwhich will take place next Sunday morning, he reflected on those dark times in an interview with Wide World of Sports.
“It was a slow climb from a low point,” Buckman said.
“It was like my whole world changed very quickly.”
His darkest moments were interrupted by Achilles tendinopathy in the summer of 2018-19.
His sponsors, including Nike and Athletics Australia, left him devastated.
Soon he found himself working business hours in an office – familiar to millions of people, but a difficult transition for a former athlete who loved to travel the world, spending hours a day enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
He left the Sydney job and took another one in the city, but lost it when the COVID-19 pandemic hit a few months later.
In late 2020, he fell and broke his wrist. He underwent two surgeries.
His head was messed up and, due to Achilles tendinopathy and his broken wrist, the star athlete could not lean on the most important thing in his life.
For about 18 months, his running shoes gathered dust.
When he started running again after a long layoff, some minor injuries started to crop up
She sought help through the Australian Institute of Sport mental health network and, years later, she’s glad she did.
“I thought it was a very difficult time and I didn’t want to see it again,” Buckman said.
“I don’t know if I would have been able to do it because of what I was going through at the time and the changes in life and my injuries.
“It took me a while to get out of that difficult situation.
“I was miserable in 2019 because I had a windowless office and I was used to traveling the world and being out in the sun and running, so it took a while to get back to the happy place. .
“I lived in the most beautiful part of the world, but I had to get used to long hours in the office and long commutes and I couldn’t even run.”
“So it was a big change… It was a shock to the system.
“I found my feet again when I moved to Canberra in 2020.
“It didn’t change overnight, I just rebuilt myself over time, it’s not like there was magic.”
In April 2022, Buckman laced up her boots for her first race in nearly three and a half years, taking on the likes of Jessica Hull and Abbey Caldwell in the Run The Tan in Melbourne.
Coach Gerard Ryan played a key role as he rediscovered his love of running, but in May he joined another Canberra coach in Des Proctor.
The move pitted her against a number of Australian champions – women’s 10,000m champion Leanne Pompeani, and 800m gold medalist Riley McGown.
Buckman has three national crowns, having won the women’s 1500-meter titles in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
But unfulfilled career expectations continue to praise him
In Moscow in 2013, she became the first Australian woman in history to reach the world championships in the 1500 metres. However, the finals have eluded her at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2016 Olympics and the 2017 world championships.
He faces tough competition in his pursuit of selection for the 5000 meters at Paris 2024.
In the Australian arena, Hull is unbeaten at any distance she chooses, with Lauren Ryan, Rose Davies, Izzi Batt-Doyle and Pompeani among the real contenders for the 5000 metres.
Buckman is facing this challenge.
“I think what keeps me in the game is having high goals, but I find now I’m looking forward to training now that I have this team with my coach Des, and regardless I will achieve my goals next year. ‘I’m just enjoying the process, and I think it’s the best part of my life,” said Buckman, who works for the Department of Defense.
“I wish I could be better, I know that this will happen after a while.
“It’s important if you just keep moving. I want to see what comes out of that excitement.
“It’s an itch I need to scratch
“I don’t think anyone expected me to run better than I have. I’ve already been in the top six in the world (at the 2013 world championships).
“But for me it would be an amazing comeback to make the Olympic team again.
Seeing Leanne do well gives me confidence in my training and the confidence that I can get results in this group again.
“I know it’s a tall order… I’m not saying it’s going to be easy and I might not get there, but I have nothing to lose by trying.”
If Buckman is to make it to Paris 2024, he will see it as an even bigger feat than reaching the 2012 or 2016 Olympics.
“I would have a completely different perspective,” he said.
“I would be surprised to come back at this level and compete with the top guys, whereas in London and Rio I was very disappointed not to finish.
“Obviously I could still raise my distance, but just getting to first place is a big hill to climb now, as opposed to wanting to be at the end… Now I have to climb my way if I can.”
Buckman graduated from the University of Oregon in 2011, before joining the group managed by Nic Bideau, the Melbourne athletics leader who trained Cathy Freeman, and currently trains Brett Robinson, Jack Rayner, Ryan and Genevieve Gregson, Sinead Diver and the team military. other stars.
Buckman parted ways with Bideau after the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and while he loves being a member of his star-studded stable, he looks back on his time as a professional athlete with regrets.
“Looking back, I wish I hadn’t focused so much on running that I let other parts of my life slip,” he said.
“I was learning while I was running but I didn’t get much at work.
“I didn’t hang out with a lot of people outside of running either, so when I was forced to deal with life outside of my sport I realized the importance of investing in other things in your life.
“On the positive side, it has made me appreciate the competition when I can, because when he was eliminated… I realized that I had the opportunity to get that opportunity. When I get to the line now I am very grateful to be there. .”
He has also taken lessons from his mental problems.
“It made me more interested in taking care of myself outside of running, because if you’re not happy with other parts of your life and things fall by the wayside while you’re running then you have nothing to fall back on. So, I don’t beat myself up these days and I know that my life will go on even if I have a result. what,” Buckman said.
“I think I also know that no matter how hard things get, it gets better in time. You have to keep going. That’s what I’ve learned; that if you keep looking for opportunities and keep putting yourself out there. then things will get better, nothing will ever be the same.
“I know how things can go if you don’t stay on top of the little things and step back when you need to take a break and do something to get out of your mind.
“It’s very important to keep moving forward.
“I like the importance of hard work. The more you work, the better things will be.”
When Buckman talks about his Paris Olympic dream, his drive is palpable
“That’s what makes it worth trying.”
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