VETERAN steeplechaser Victoria Mitchell is experiencing a career resurgence. One of the Australian athletics team’s oldest competitor missed out on qualifying for London.
That disappointment drove the fierce competitor to move interstate and train hard and faster to secure her place in what could be her last Olympic opportunity.
The 34-year-old’s connection to Ballarat is not clear cut. Born and bred in Mansfield, Mitchell moved to Ballarat in 2000 to study an education degree at the then Ballarat University. She moved overseas to America and remained a member of the Eureka Athletics Club until 12 months ago.
Mitchell’s devastating elimination from London, by mere seconds, caused her to re-think her training.
“I moved to Sydney after missing out on London (by a few seconds) to train with a bigger, faster group,” Mitchell told The Mansfield Courier.
Mitchell’s last Olympic campaign was far from ideal. Nursing an injury she placed 32nd in the 3000 metre steeplechase. Eight months later she had surgery that interrupted her right up to 2014.
“I was nursing an injury at the last Olympics and that led to surgery about eight months later,” Mitchell said.
“So my time out was with getting past that injury and getting fit again.”
Mitchell’s road to Rio has been much smoother. Her fastest qualifying time was in Belgium 2015 around June.
“Training has been going well. I've only had one track race since our domestic season which was last week in Sweden. It didn't go well but I know why (over doing my training) so we can change things,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell peaked in 2006. In the Melbourne Commonwealth Games she secured fourth place.
Her recent performances have been promising, this year she came third at the Australian Athletics Championships and third at the 2016 IAAF World Challenge
Mitchell says making the Olympics is her greatest achievement.
“(I have) Olympic rings - (tattooed on my )left ribs - my greatest achievement,” Mitchell said.
“Stars - right ribs - stars are always on your side. Amor Fati (latin for love of one's fate) on left wrist. Ace of diamonds right arm - My father called his four kids his four aces and I was the diamond (he is dead).”
Mitchell has not confirmed if this will be her last Olympics, but says she is looking forward to starting a family in the new few years. This has heightened her anxiety about the Zika virus and overall safety in Rio.
“I am concerned about this as I plan on having a family in the next couple of years,” Mitchell said.
“I will be taking every precaution to avoid mosquitos. Lots of mosquito repellent with a high content of DEET is recommended. I'm glad I'm not in a water sport.
“We've been told if we go out of the village to go in groups of three. To leave our passports behind and take minimal money. Apparently they like to hold your passport for ransom.
“I'm not sure if I will even leave the village to be a tourist.”
Former Eureka Athletic’s coach Ron Griffin coached Mitchell for a number of years before she moved overseas.
“She always had a good record with steeplechase,” Griffin said.
“She’s been around the longest … she’s had a very long career and kept a very high standard,”
Griffin said Mitchell had always had a solid determination to achieve.
“She came to Ballarat as an 18-year-old. She was just starting out in her career. She was a very hardy athlete and very capable across a number of events,” Griffin said.
The women’s steeplechase starts on August 13.
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