Peloton Watch
  Kaarle McCulloch returns to World Championships after battle with injury  
  February 16th 2015  
  After a difficult 12 months with injury three time team sprint World Champion Kaarle McCulloch is back in the Australian team. Selected for the 2015 Track World Championships, her seventh outing at a senior World Championships. McCulloch competed in six World Championships in a row between 2008 and 2013, and also claimed Commonwealth gold in 2010 and Olympic bronze in 2012.

In her return to international competition in October last year at the Oceania Championships McCulloch claimed gold in the team sprint and bronze in the sprint. McCulloch then took another step forward renewing her rivalry at the Australian Championships with Anna Meares in the sprint. McCulloch had to settle for silver there but it was a sign that her star is again on the rise.

Ahead of the World Championships McCulloch has turned her focus to the team sprint as she looks to regain the title with Anna Meares. The last time the duo competed together was the London Olympics. Below McCulloch talks World Championships, expectation and how her return to the boards has gone so far.

PelotonWatch: First Track World championships since Belarus in 2013 what does it mean to be back named in an Australian team?

Kaarle McCulloch: It is such a privilege to be able to represent your country, it really means a lot to me as it was always a dream of mine as a little girl to wear the green and gold for Australia. It has a much bigger meaning to me this year as there were so many moments over the last 12 months when I wasn't sure I would even be able to get back to a level good enough to earn the green and gold again. I well and truly earned it this year and I am very proud of myself.

PW: Three time Team Sprint World Champion does this drive you to try and regain the title?

KM: Of course! There is nothing quite like standing on top of the podium and seeing the flag rise above your head and sing the anthem aloud, especially with a great team mate and friend like Anna Meares. Ever since I had my first taste of that in Poland 2009 it drives me to be the very best that I can be day in and day out and I think that that is what separates a good athlete from a great one.

This is the first time Anna and I will ride together since London 2012 so we are not really sure what to expect but I know that we work really well together and we are more excited to be back on the boards together again and looking forward to seeing what our new combination can do.

PW: You had this determined look at Nationals did you put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform?

KM: Nationals for me was really kind of a 'do or die' scenario. I have done everything I have done these past 12 months with very little financial support and my finances have basically run dry and I simply can't do what I do at the level that I do it without some sort of funding coming in. I invested a lot of time and money this year in fixing my injury, finding stability in my life in Sydney and on the aspects of my career that are the 1%'ers - the things that I don't believe a lot of people do very well. Like nutrition, massage, recovery etc. So I felt a lot of pressure to do something!

The pressure came from myself mostly, I think a lot of people had given up on me, it is very easy for people to be a supporter of you when things are going well but as soon as you have some sort of difficulty they jump the bandwagon and find someone else to follow so I have to thank the people who stood by me and helped me through this very difficult period of time in my life and its a true reflection on them as people and I am forever grateful. Again I also am extremely proud of myself. The easy option would have been to give up and there were far too many of those days early last year, but I persisted and I am now sitting in Paris getting to ready to race again!

PW: Silver medal in the sprint how important a result was this for you?

KM: It was totally unexpected to be honest. I have invested all of my time into the team sprint and the 200m qualifying at Nationals was basically the first flying effort I had done in like 3months! I was very taken aback and surprised, especially considering I have not had an improvement in my 200m qualifying since November 2011.

But I was more impressed by my ability to ride consistent 11.5 rounds during nationals. That's something I have never been able to do and it's a true testament to Sean Eadie and my team at the NSWIS for putting me through some difficult and rigorous training these last eight months that have targeted my weaknesses as an athlete.

I am a different athlete now and I am really looking forward to this time next year because I really believe an even better version of Kaarle McCulloch will be riding the boards. I feel like there is an endless realm of undiscovered opportunity awaiting me and it really is a pity that I can't ride the World Championships sprint this year but I look forward to another 12 months of working with Sean and seeing what we can do.

PW: Injury issues seem to be behind you, how are you feeling heading in to worlds?

KM: I can't begin to explain the joy I get from training again just purely because I have no more pain. I forgot how tedious it was for me to just get myself from session to session managing my injury, I don't have to do any of that management anymore so I can recover properly from sessions.

I fell quite ill after the nationals with the flu and haven't done much work on the bike so I certainly have fresh legs so this week prior to Worlds is just about kick starting my body and reminding it to be fast because I know the condition and form is there, and I just have to let it come back. I feel confident in this, something I learnt from Sean is that you can burn form quickly when you have it so for it to come back you have to rest - something that I think a lot of athletes don't do well, its much easier to train, use race gears etc than it is to rest and trust that it will come back - its a fine line. I reached a new level at Nationals two weeks ago and I can't wait to see the benefits of that come through with the rest.

PW: You have been working with former sprint World Champion Sean Eadie at the NSWIS. What has this been like?

KM: It has been quite a revelation for me. It doesn't surprise me anymore to turn up to track or gym and learn something new everyday anymore. Sean also pushes me to my physical limits and has done such a great job in teaching me to feel what my body is saying and coaching me to coach myself because Sean unfortunately can't be there with me at the pointy end. I really like that philosophy as I am the sort of person who wants to know why I am doing something and what its going to get me but then also see the rewards of my efforts. That has been the greatest thing from Sean - seeing the rewards come from the work I put in and that might not necessarily be in the form of medals all the time but small things like reaching a new PB in max squat or a best peak power on the track etc. Those small gains give great confidence.

Sean has also helped me to work on myself as a person, he has become a good friend. He was aware of the immense difficulties I went through last year off the bike and became a sort of mentor at times when I was struggling most - the days when I didn't want to get up and go to training he would very happily tell me to go home and take a few days - he never pushed me and I never felt pressured to turn up to training. I turn up now because I want to - rather than it being a 'privilege to train' - I train because I want to.

Sean speaks of appreciating the pursuit of the dream and I think he understands and empathises with the day to day life of being an athlete and what it takes so he is very understanding of the need to balance it all out and to have fun along the way. That also has been great for me. I don't feel guilty anymore for doing 'normal' person things every now and then like spontaneously deciding I would go to the MotoGP in Australia late last year. It meant I missed three days of training but the gain in mental space was as big if not bigger than the gains in physical preparation. Sometimes you just need to go and not be an athlete at times because the life of an athlete can be very draining. I came back that next week in training flying - that was a huge revelation, I was happy and riding fast.

I also think my time under Gary West in Adelaide has really shaped me and prepared me even better to work with Sean. I appreciate my time in Adelaide as it has given me the knowledge and experience to take what I learnt there and make it work in a more individualised and specific way in Sydney with Sean. I once heard that that was the motto of the AIS in general, its about giving athletes the skills and knowledge to be the very best and then allowing them to take that and make it work specifically for themselves in their own environment. I do what I want now, with Sean's guidance, when I want and because I believe in it - that gives you a great deal of empowerment over your career - because after all it is MY career. I handpicked all of the people who make up my team now and I picked them because I believe they are the best in their field. I also think the NSWIS is a World Class Institute. I am not disadvantaged in anyway in terms of services or access to equipment etc and it has been such a pleasure to go home and work with my team in NSW and I look forward to seeing what we can do in the lead in to Rio 2016 Olympics.

PW: What has been the biggest motivator for you over the past few months?

KM: Myself. I was knocked to the ground last year, I didn't really want to do anything with my life anymore as what I was working for was just suddenly taken away from me - it was shockingly hard for me to see what I thought I was working towards just fall apart in front of me. I developed depression and was having constant panic attacks for a while there. When you have been through something like that it changes you. For good or bad. I like to think it has changed me for the better. I am a much stronger and wiser person and I am so proud of myself for picking myself back up off the floor as I think the easy option in life is to be a victim and complain about something that happened to you rather than say to yourself ok that really hurt and it sucked but what happened to me or my life does not define me or my life - we all have a choice even when the choice is taken away from us - I think the people who chose to stand up and work to be the best that they can be are the most inspirational people because I know how hard it is! I am motivated for myself - my comeback was for me, it wasn't about anyone else and I am and continue to be my own motivator.

PW: What are you hoping for at Worlds?

KM: Anna, Gary West and I haven't really spoken about expectations or outcome. All we want to do as a team is put the best effort out on the track as a collective and see what happens. It's too difficult for me to sit here and predict or expect because it's literally the first time we have ridden together. Personally my goal is to deliver Anna as fast as I can.

McCulloch starts her flying 200m at the 2015 National Championships
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