Zoe’s sights on Rio
TERRY WEST knew he was on to something special the moment a young Zoe Buckman stepped foot on the athletics track in Junction Hill.
Buckman was a Grafton Public School student back then, with loads of potential and dreams of competing at the Olympic Games.
She turned her Olympic dream into reality in London last year, and made history this morning as the first Australian woman to compete in the 1500m final at the World Athletics Championships.
Buckman's athletic roots stem from the Jacaranda City, and West was one of the first to understand her limitless potential.
"When I got home after training her for the first time I said to my wife (Marianne) that Zoe would go a long way," West said.
West helped advance Buckman's natural ability, which he said was a rare combination of speed and endurance.
He introduced a young Buckman to hill-running during that time, using the whole Clarence Valley as one big training track.
"There's a few big sand dunes down at Minnie Water-Wooli that she would run up and down," West said.
"If there is anything I can claim, I think I helped her running style, mainly her arms.
"We had to change that a bit but I can still see what we did when I see her run now."
Buckman won her first state medals while being coached by West, starring in the 200m and 800m events.
She launched herself to greater heights following that success, before her family's move to Canberra ended West's direct involvement after two years.
He kept tabs on her development from afar, however, watching as she progressed through the ACT Academy of Sport and, more recently, the University of Oregon.
West said he believed her breakthrough moment came on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning AEST), when she qualified for this morning's final in a personal best time of 4:04.82.
"Her run in the semi-final is her breakthrough," West said.
"Zoe ran really aggressively and tactically, which is something she has developed more recently.
"She comes home well. The extremely strong competition should lift her and I think she could run another personal best.
"I think she should have her eyes firmly on a medal in Rio ."