Dual Olympian, Caroline Buchanan will try her hand at a new discipline of cycling when she competes in the final round of the 2018 UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup in China from 2-4 November.
Last December, Buchanan suffered life-threatening injuries including a broken nose, sternum, two collapsed lungs and bleeding around her heart following an off-road vehicle accident outside of Canberra. The accident forced her off the bike until July where she claimed the win in just her second race back at the Rockshox Pump Track Challenge in Canada.
"It has been quite a challenging year for me, most of my years have been an athlete focus," said the 28-year-old, who married her longtime partner Barry Noble in the USA last month. "2018 has been a human focus; life and health have taken priority."
"I have never had six months off the bike before, so the challenge for me this year was all about being patient, sit through injuries and recover."
In true Buchanan style, when faced with one challenge, the best response is to take on another. The Canberran has taken up Freestyle BMX, an exciting new discipline of the sport which sees cyclists perform a series of tricks and jumps across a ramp-filled course.
"I love a challenge, I have pelted in a straight line for 22 years of my life, so for me to step away from being a racer into freestyle, to have to learn aerial awareness, to taking my hand off my handlebar for the first time in twenty years, to learning the tricks and the backflips," Buchanan explained.
"It has been quite a rewarding journey, it has taken me back to that five-year-old girl when I started riding my bike, every day was a win.
"I have small wins each day to take away, not only in my comeback, to continue to build where I need to be, back in the racing world."
The change of disciplines isn't new for Buchanan whose eight world titles are comprised of mountain biking and BMX. However, she believes it was her car accident in December that has given her the resolve to take on the new challenge.
"Any time I have stepped off the racing path I have always been on two wheels, but I have always been on dirt," she explained. "This is still two wheels, but a very different environment, learning metal coping, concrete, being on wood.
"I am going from a sport where you might crash one or two times a year, to one where you may crash 10-20 times a session when you're learning, it has built resilience, and I smile through the journey and continue the personal progression.
"I wouldnât have been able to do this before the accident, but coming back from my injury, it has pushed me. It has strengthened me to know what my body can sustain. I know I am never going to get that injury on a bike, so that has given me the confidence to step into this new world."
Buchanan's progression has been rapid, with her competition debut set for November 2 at the 2018 UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup.
"I was nervous to sign up," Buchanan revealed. "I am completely stepping out of my comfort zone. I think it has been rewarding as an eight-time world champion in different disciplines of cycling, but to put the 'L' plates on again, to learn, to come in as an underdog, it is exhilarating."
While Buchanan is dipping her toe into the discipline which is set to make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, there is no denying the dual Olympian's goal for the Games.
"I went to London, I went to Rio, and my goal is to go to Tokyo for racing," Buchanan asserted. âRacing is my bread and butter. I'm competitive, I love racing, for me that is first and foremost.
"I have always treated mountain biking as a bonus, it has always been my refresh button, it has kept longevity for me in the sport. So I see BMX Freestyle as that, a refresh and for diversity."
Regardless of which form she chooses, Buchanan is excited about what lies ahead for her in her newly elected discipline.
"What you can see you can't be," she added. "The scene is evolving for women and girls now. We have seen the expansion of all action sports into the Olympics, we have the first nationals coming up soon and would hope that is the first opportunity for women.
"I have taken a passion and would love to see more girls get involved."
Photos - Con Chronis