A few months ago Caroline Buchanan was hurtling down the mountain bike trail at Stromlo at 50 km/h when she crashed. She knocked herself out and woke up alongside a smashed helmet.
She also found herself back at Canberra Hospital for a series of tests. They had plenty of records to use for comparison. Caroline had spent two-and-a-half years in and out of hospital after suffering serious injuries in another off-road vehicle accident in late December 2017.
The story of her comeback from these injuries is well known, including three surgeries on her sternum.
What hasn’t been as well documented is the sense of relief she experienced as the scans from her latest crash were revealed.
“I wasn’t sure but when you hit the ground going 50 km/h and the impact is enough to break your helmet and you knock yourself out, you know you have had a solid impact,” says Caroline.
“It was really refreshing to check-in at the AIS and see the scans and see a nice white calcified bone and to know that after two-and-a-half-years that chapter had closed. I’d tested it out and it was solid. I knew physically I’ve tested it strength wise going from lifting one-kilo dumbbells to now deadlifting 140 kilos but to test it in a crash gives me peace of mind.”
With her body fully crash tested, the focus for Caroline is very much on qualifying for her third Olympics. With so much time off the bike recovering from injury the postponed Olympics gives her more time to prepare and qualify.
And there is plenty of motivation. She was too young to compete at the 2008 Olympics, was one of the favourites for the 2012 Olympics before finishing fifth, then crashed out in the 2016 Olympics.
At the moment she is ranked third in Australia in the BMX with the top two going to the Olympics.
“At this stage, I haven’t ticked the Olympic boxes for qualifying.”
But Caroline is determined.
She has effectively self-funded her campaign through her own remarkable skills in establishing a brand that makes her incredibly attractive to sponsors. It has ensured that she can train full-time in Canberra, having moved home after 10 years in California.
The contest for positions on the team begins in earnest in early December on the Gold Coast.
“We will be taking part in mock Olympic trials for the next six months,” says Caroline. This is in anticipation that there will be little opportunity for overseas world cups between now and the Olympics.
There is added urgency for Caroline to make the team for Tokyo. At 30 years of age, she says it will be her last Olympic campaign. Three is enough, and there are other mountains literally to conquer.
After Tokyo she will focus on mountain bike racing. She has already won five mountain bike world titles to go with her three world crowns in BMX.
Says Caroline, “There is more longevity in mountain bikes than BMX”. And there are also other disciplines of BMX to conquer.
For the moment, though, it is all about the Olympics. She has done well to get back into contention after riding through more than two years of hell.
With her body fully tested, she’s ready.