WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
After 18-months away from competition with a career-threatening injury, Australia’s ‘great white hope’ Craig Mottram is back and looking to make up for lost time, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 30-year-old runner began to suffer from Achilles issues shortly after finishing only fifth in his 5,000m heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was subsequently forced to miss the World championships in Berlin last summer.
It was not until last November that the Victoria-born athlete made his tentative return to racing with a strong 13:23 5km clocking on the roads in Japan and now several months on, Mottram is fast-returning to a glimpse of the form that took him to global bronze five years ago over twelve and a half laps.
Following a solid 7:45.87 3,000m clocking for eighth in the Crystal Palace Diamond League last month, ‘Buster’ as he is affectionately known to fans, got back into winning ways with a 28:50 victory over 10km on the roads in the BUPA Great Yorkshire Run last weekend.
“I’m actually feeling pretty good at the moment,” Mottram explained. “I’ve got a couple of weeks in the UK then back home to Australia for our summer. My season has progressed nicely. Off the back of 18-months of injury I had no expectations this summer. I just wanted to run and enjoy my return to the track.”
Coached by Chris Wardlaw and sponsored by Adidas despite the rollercoaster ride, Mottram has turned down many lucrative offers of late to continue his comeback over the Pond, such is his desire not rush his return.
“2009 was an interesting year. I was injured and I tried to return to running on several occasions with no luck,” Mottram recalled.
“Time was the biggest factor in settling down my Achilles. The toughest part was allowing them the time to heal. I was productive in other areas of my life during this period. I finished my marketing degree and made sure I did as many 'normal' things as possible.
I’m most proud of the last two years of my career. Yes, I was injured but I stuck it out and I’m now back running at a very high level. Sport is easy when everything is going smoothly. When it’s not, many athletes stop. I pressed on.”
At 6ft2, Mottram cuts an impending figure over his rivals and he will next appear for Australia in the annual England V Australia match at the BUPA Great North CityGames in Newcastle next weekend. Racing over two-miles, the Sunderland FC fan will feel very much at home before returning to his Melbourne base for summer Down Under.
His family is from a British background, too – Mottram’s father is a Londoner and his mother hails from Scotland. The clan immigrated to Australia in 1980 and Mottram himself has a British passport, though that is more for travel convenience during the European summer season.
Running up to 160km a week, Mottram lives in Melbourne from October to May then travels through America and Europe from May through September – time away from home he claims as being the ‘worst part of being an athlete’.
A silver medallist from the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Mottram will not be participating in the 2010 edition in Delhi next month, instead preferring to train hard in his quest to get back to his best 7:32.19 (3,000m) and 12:55.76 (5,000m) shape of the past.
A former Australian junior triathlon champion before he turned his attentions to athletics, Mottram has high hopes of returning to world-class form and stepping up onto the podium once more:
“London 2012’s my big aim,” Mottram revealed. “I wouldn’t be back if I didn’t believe I could be better than I was. (After I retire) I hope to work in some capacity in sport in Australia. I love the business and media side behind sport.”