In the saddle ... Caroline Buchanan. Photo: Getty Images
AS CAROLINE BUCHANAN prepared to swap her BMX for a mountain bike, she described taking out the 2012 Super Cross World Cup Series as "redemption" after her London Olympic campaign finished in tears.
Buchanan, one of the stars of the BMX circuit, was trumpeted before the Games as the gold medal favourite. However, after she finished fifth to Columbian Mariana Pajon, the heartbroken 21-year-old sobbed that not even seeing her family home burn to the ground during the 2003 Canberra bushfires or her brother breaking his neck in a cycling accident was as bad as the pain she felt in London.
Buchanan secured the No.1 gate for the Olympic final, but she missed the start and could not recover. Four months later she admitted the pain of London still stung.
"It was a bit of redemption from the Olympics and good to finish the year on a high," she said of her triumph in Canada. "I learnt a lot in London. It magnified areas I need to work on, areas I thought I'd sorted out but hadn't.
"I'm going to be a lot hungrier, a lot stronger and better for Rio in 2016. I don't think you could be 100 per cent ready for the [first] Olympics [campaign] even though our preparation for it on the Gold Coast, and then at our camp in France, was great.
"However, if you'd have spoken to me a year out from the Games, you'd have realised my expectations were a lot different to what they were on the day of the Olympics. In the year leading into the Games I'd exceeded all of my expectations … I ticked all the boxes and found myself at London having done everything I wanted to do and I even thought 'wow, I could win this thing and I have the world's support'."
But she didn't cross the line first and Buchanan said her immediate thought after she dusted herself off was to seek redemption - for her own sake - in Canada.
"That sense of redemption came from within, from feeling disappointed with myself," she said. "I basically let myself down [at the Olympics] and it was good to finish with a World Cup win. I had a good result, I won the last time trial and that gave me a decent points lead ahead of everyone else … I knew I'd won the overall World Cup season and, after coming in second the two previous years, it felt great."
While the 2013 BMX season does not start until March, Buchanan said she would bide her time by regaining the title she relinquished in 2010 as the world champion mountain bike rider - otherwise known as downhill racing - to concentrate on an Olympic medal.
Should all go to plan, Buchanan said she would reign as cycling's extreme queen next year by winning both disciplines.
'In 2010 … I hung the mountain bike on the wall after I won the world title," she said. "I focused on BMX for London, but it was always my plan to return to mountain biking and have some fun to ensure I don't burn out.
"However, like anything I do, I want to be on top of the podium."