One of the stand out New Zealand performers during the 2017 season has been Camille Buscomb. Here Steve Landells chats to the World Championship-bound distance runner about what has contributed to her hot streak of form.
"The moment you're ready to quit, is usually the moment right before the miracle happens. Don't give up, you are closer to success than you think."
If ever a quote best summed up the running journey undertaken by Camille Buscomb this well-known motivational phrase perfectly fits the description.
After several seasons of frustrating near misses in which the Waikato endurance athlete has fallen just shy of qualification standards for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2015 World Championships and 2016 Rio Olympics - the latter by just four seconds in the 5000m -a mentally less robust athlete would have perhaps wondered if she ever would achieve her championship ambitions.
Yet since the move West of the Tasman to hook up with Nic Bideau's crack Melbourne Track Club, the Hamilton City Hawks athlete has undergone a transformation which has led her to earning qualification berths for both the 5000m and 10,000m at the forthcoming World Championship.
In short, her dogged persistence has ensured the miracle has happened.
"I am very excited to be able to qualify for a major championship", says Camille, a multiple New Zealand champion on the track and road. "I have been very close on a number of occasions, and unfortunately things have gone wrong right around the time of major qualifying opportunities. I am so happy to have now qualified for Worlds".
Her current success is in stark contrast to the frustration she endured in 2016. Struggling with illness for several months early last year, Camille, then coached by Maria Hassan - of whom she still has an excellent relationship - decided to head over to Europe to gain some much-needed experience. Despite being in far from her best shape, the New Zealander still managed to set a new 3000m PB of 9:05.24 in Nivelles but on her return and after missing out on a place in the New Zealand Olympic team for Rio, she acknowledged something needed to change in order to make the next step in her career development.
It was at this point she looked to the Melbourne Track Club, which included quality athletes such as Olympic finalists Ryan Gregson (1500m) and Genevieve LaCaze (3000m steeplechase), who both placed ninth in Rio, for that next step.
"I have competed against Nic's athletes for many years now, and I feel that he has a wealth of knowledge with training, planning, travel, training camps, and races at the very top international scene," she says. "I wanted to be a part of it. I felt that I had more in me as an athlete and felt I needed to make a huge commitment to something big, if I wanted to see big improvements in my athletics career. "
Camille took the plunge and although she admits being away from home and her partner, Cameron French, the New Zealand 400m hurdles champion, for big of chunks of time has not been easy, it is one which she needed to make to improve.
Following a lengthy end-of-season break she returned to training in September and formally started training with MTC two months later with her first major competitive target the 10,000m at the Zatopek meet in Melbourne.
Given her relative lack of training time, expectations were not "overly high" yet in difficult conditions she impressed to win by Zatopek by a victory margin of 30 seconds in 32:34.41 - and claim some notable scalps including that of Olympic tenth place finisher Eloise Wellings.
"I would say that I was satisfied with my performance, but I knew that there was still a lot of hard work to be done before I was anywhere near where I wanted to be in the next few months," she says." It was a positive sign that what I was doing was working for me."
Training at a higher volume with tougher competition during training sessions has started to reap rewards.
"Overall I've trained harder than at any stage in my life," she admits. "In the five-week period leading into Stanford, when I trained full-time, it was on incredibly tough terrain. I knew I was fit but it was a matter of putting my ability into actual performance on the track. I had two very unsuccessful races at Stanford in the past and I was eager to place my stamp on the race in a positive way."
The race ran like a dream for the 26-year-old Kiwi. Running "strong and relaxed" through the 25-lap distance at the iconic US meet, she stopped the clock in a stunning new PB of 31:45.02. The performance, which elevated her to number three on the all-time New Zealand rankings behind Kim Smith and Nyla Carroll, was significantly well under the World Championship qualification standard of 32:15.00.
"I felt a really big sense of relief," says Camille of finally making her first World Championship team. "It was so wonderful to finally achieve a time that would get me onto the world stage properly. I was so excited it went to plan so that I could focus on a clear plan leading into Worlds, rather than chasing a qualification time."
Since that breakthrough performance on the American West Coast, a new more confident Camille has also banked the B qualification standard for the 5000m after slashing nearly nine seconds from her 5000m best with a 15:19:.81 clocking - to advance to fifth on the all-time New Zealand rankings in Nijmegen.
With her place booked on the World Championship team she can now prepare diligently for London with belief and clarity.
On Sunday, she competes over 3000m at the Stockholm Diamond League, where her current PB of 9:05.24 must be due for some revision. She then plans her final pre-World Championship hit out over 5000m in Heusden, Belgium on July 22 before embarking on her London World Championship assault.
Basing herself in the distance running Mecca of Teddington in London for much of the planned European season, she will certainly be used to the conditions she will face in the Olympic Stadium at the forthcoming World Championships but what would the 2015 World University Games 5000m silver medallist like to achieve in the furnace of the biggest competition of her career?
"I would rather not say specific goals at this stage but I aim to make the 5000m final (should selection in this event be confirmed) and a place in the top 12 in the 10,000m."
Believing there is still much scope to improve, she is excited by the future and believes she has improved markedly as an athlete under Bideau's direction.
"I have grown significantly tougher mentally, physically and I have also gained more confidence as a person and in racing," she adds.