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Kaarle McCulloch: The Olympic Spirit lives within me

Kaarle McCulloch Getty Images
It will be nine years between Olympic Games for Australian track cyclist Kaarle McCulloch when she takes to Izu Velodrome next summer.

Cycling came to Kaarle McCulloch, who is now a London 2012 bronze medallist and three-time Commonwealth Games champion, by chance.

Despite winning a few Australian national titles in athletics, the then teenager wasn't showing the talents to make it to an Olympic team - a dream of hers. So it in late high school, McCulloch's step-father introduced her to track cycling but she wasn't so sure about it.

"I thought cycling was a bit silly," the Sydney-born athlete said during the On Your Day podcast. What 17-year-old girl wants to ride around on a bike with literally no brakes, one gear that you can't stop pedalling, on a track that is banked at 45 degrees and in a lycra skin suit, it didn't sound good to me."

However, after riding around and participating in the training being held that day, she did some standing lap efforts - when a cyclist is held in position then accelerates around the track as fast as they can.

"The coach at the time said 'if you had ridden that same time on a track 100m longer you would have been the Olympic Champion like Anna Mears'," McCulloch explained. That was it. On that day I became a cyclist."

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Feeling the Olympic spirit

McCulloch was 12-years-old when the Olympic Games Sydney 2000 took place and the impact it had on her, is something that continues to be a source of power and inspiration. After watching athletics at Sydney's Olympic Stadium, McCulloch was perched on her father's shoulders walking towards the train station.

"I couldn't see the ground. It was just a see of heads and there was this feeling among the people, it was something I've never felt before," she recalled.

She felt this for a second time when she was crossing the bridge to watch Usain Bolt run his 100m final at London 2012.

"I got to the top of the bridge and it was just a sea of heads. That feeling to me, is the Olympic Spirit and I just wanted to be part of that. That spirit, it lives within me."

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Very excited to announce that I’m going to my second Olympic Games with the @ausolympicteam for the @tokyo2020 Olympics! When I was 12 I watched @cathyfreemanofficial light this beautiful cauldron behind me for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games! I thought it was fitting to cruise by today and get a snap in my @asicsaustralia Kimono and @qantas Boarding Pass! Thanks everyone for your ongoing support!! As we face the next few months of uncertainty even though we as humans are facing a challenge we have also shown we are able to overcome. The world will recover from this and I believe everyone has within them part of the Olympic spirit, this is why the @olympics are so special - it brings the world together when we need it the most. #QFtoTokyo #TokyoTogether #japan #australia #olympics #sydneyolympicpark #overcome #olympicspirit #tokyo #tokyoolympics #2020 #cycling

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'It has been hard but I'm getting through it'

It's been quite a roller coaster for McCulloch, who was named in the Australian Olympic Team just a week in a half before the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games was announced.

Tokyo 2020 will be the Australians second Olympics, and will mark nine years since her Olympic debut at London 2012. She will also be turning 33 in January and with that at the back of her mind, there was a level of uncertainty about whether she should continue.

"It's another 12 months of putting my body through what is quite a lot hard work," the four-time World Champion said. I know what it takes to get to the top, it's not easy. It's day in day out of hard work and commitment, its 24 hour 7 days a week job, which had just been extended another 17 months."

While McCullouch admits that she has struggled, that feeling she got as a 12-year-old is a driving force behind wanting to keep going.

"In those hard times when I think 'can I do this?', 'should I be doing this?', I just go back to what is my ultimate dream, what I truly believe in and that's myself and the fact that I just want this and that I believe that I can do it. It has been hard but I'm getting through it."

Kaarle McCulloch Getty Images

Records to fall in Tokyo

Olympic Cycling Track will kick off on 2 August at Izu Velodrome located in the Shizuoka Prefecture. And it's a track many of the cyclists are looking forward to competing on.

"So for us the Tokyo track its at a little bit of altitude, it's going to be hot and humid, it does have long straights but because of the conditions of the track, it's going to be a bloody fast track," McCulloch said.

"I think we are going to see some world records fall there."

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