Chris Dutton August 12, 2012
Canberra's Caroline Buchanan was devastated after coming fifth in the women's BMX final. Photo: Iain Gillespie
IT WAS heartbreaking just looking into Caroline Buchanan's eyes.
About 10 minutes after her Olympic Games dream was crushed, she rolled on her bike to the media mix zone for interviews with tears already running down her face.
What do you say to someone whose just had been shattered by finishing fifth in the gold-medal BMX race?
Nothing. The only thing Buchanan wanted was a hug.
So even on the other side of the world and with journalists waiting for her to speak, that's what she got when she leaned over the barrier to say hello to The Sunday Canberra Times.
Then - with tears still streaming down her face - she bravely answered the questions she dreaded most.
What went wrong? When did you know it was over? What now? How does it feel?
And to her credit, Buchanan answered them with courage and honesty, pausing regularly to wipe away tears and catch her breath.
This was my moment of the London Olympics.
I was at the pool when Michael Phelps became the first swimmer in history to win the same event at three different Olympics.
I was in the stands as Usain Bolt cruised to victory to defend his 100-metre crown.
I've seen the USA basketball team, seen Patrick Mills score 39 points and hit a three-point buzzer-beater to win a game, was there when Lauren Jackson became the highest point-scorer in women's Olympic basketball and jumped out of my seat as Belinda Snell hit a half-court Hail Mary for the Australian Opals.
But when I arrive back to Canberra, it will be Buchanan's moment that sticks with me.
It's hard not to be emotionally invested in an athlete's hopes and dreams.
Buchanan's journey started at the dirt track of Tuggeranong and she made it to the Olympics.
The Olympics are remembered by most as a chance to reach the pinnacle. If you don't get there, it's heartbreak.
That's how Buchanan felt. You could see it in her eyes and sometimes it's hard to describe just how shattered an athlete was.
But it would have been torture post-race to recount the events first through multiple television interviews before arriving to a pack of newspaper journalists.
The fast-paced BMX world is all about crashes and jumps. In a way, it would have probably been easier to swallow her defeat had she crashed and spilled some blood. Instead, she was left knowing she missed the start and couldn't fight to the front.
As the world's No.2 rider and the time trial world champion, she was expected to get a medal.
Buchanan could feel that expectation.
But the biggest pressure came from within. The 21-year-old wanted to repay the faith people had put in her throughout her career.
She will leave London without the gold medal she desperately wanted. But she gained an enormous amount of respect in the way she handled herself in one of the toughest moments of her life.
And when Rio comes around, Buchanan will be there to make amends. Only a brave man would bet against her.