Buchanan lives out brother's dream
Canberra's champion BMX rider Caroline Buchanan. Photo: Rohan Thomson
SHE'S a self-confessed daredevil chasing her dream of Olympic Games gold, but the easy option for Caroline Buchanan would have been to never ride again after watching her brother crash and break his neck.
No-one would have blamed a 12-year-old for being spooked following the crash which left Sam Buchanan with two broken arms and doctors fearing he would be paraplegic.
But the burning ambition to be the best in the world outweighed any fear or doubt Buchanan had about continuing to ''live my dream''.
Caroline Buchanan helps her injured brother Sam nine years ago.
Fast forward almost a decade and the Canberra BMX star will arrive in London next week as one of Australia's best Olympic gold medal hopes.
''I've always been a bit of a daredevil, even as a little girl with a pretty high pain tolerance and things like that,'' Buchanan said.
''I'm kind of glad I was a bit younger [when Sam crashed], it would have affected me a lot more now.
''But I never thought about giving it away … in a way I feel as though I'm living out his dream as well.''
Buchanan left Australia last week to begin her final training block before racing on the BMX course in the middle of the Olympic village.
Her form and talent suggest she can stand on top of the podium, but the reigning time trial world champion admits the race to the finish line will be the most intense atmosphere she's experienced.
Her journey to the top began on the dirt tracks of Tuggeranong with her parents as her travelling ''piggybank'' and her brother as her sidekick.
Sam Buchanan was a rising BMX star as well. At the national titles in 2003, he misjudged a jump and crashed to the ground.
For four hours he didn't have feelings in his limbs.
After a nervous wait for parents Gail and Laurence, he made a full recovery.
But while his career was put on the back burner, Caroline's continued to soar.
Gail Buchanan still winces every time she watches Caroline race.
She's well aware of the dangers and the potential for disaster, but insists ''we never questioned Caroline doing BMX''.
''You can't take something away from someone that they love so much,'' Gail said.
''Life has to go on and you can't mollycoddle anybody … Sam got back on his bike and I followed him [in the car] the first time, but he was fine.
''Caroline pushes her body to the limit, she has done since she was three. I had to enrol her in gymnastics because she was always climbing trees. At least that way someone could teach her how to land … she's definitely a thrill-seeker.
''I got used to everyone doing BMX … but in London I think I'll be excited, terrified, worried, anxious and incredibly proud.
''There will be so many emotions that by the end of the race I'll fall to pieces quietly in a corner somewhere.''
Her parents and family have supported her since she raced for the first time in an international competition in France in 1999 as a nine-year-old.
''Mum and dad would drive me to the ACT Academy of Sport gym at 5am, sit in the car and read a book and then drive me to school,'' Buchanan said.
''I appreciated it when I was younger, but I didn't really understand how much they were putting into it. Now I look at budgets of $70,000 to compete and I think, 'wow, they've put so much into this'.
''I'm not a tennis player or golfer living the rockstar life.
''It started to affect me because I see the men in BMX getting paid heaps and I was getting angry and frustrated. But my parents have been my piggybank and they've allowed me to do the sport I love.
''At the end of the day I'm riding a little kid's bike around a track, that's what I've done for as long as I can remember. Now it's just on a bigger stage at the Olympics.''