WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Already established as a key fixture on the GB 4x400m relay squad, Richard Buck finally burst into the spotlight as an individual earlier this month at the European indoor Championships in Paris, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 24-year-old City of York AC athlete stormed to continental 400m bronze in the French capital to capture his first international medal in the event before returning to team duties by anchoring Team GB to 4x400m silver in a magical weekend for the Yorkshire-man.
A seven-time national champion indoors and out over the same number of years, Buck credits his improved form to the fresh collaboration with coaches Kevin Tyler and Steve Fudge at his Loughborough base and offers his thoughts on a breakthrough 2011 indoor campaign:
“It’s all thanks to Kevin and Steve, they’ve changed me and how I run – their attention to detail on and off the track is second to none,” Buck explained.
“I joined them in September after carrying an Achilles injury for most of the summer so I forgot about Delhi (the Commonwealth Games back in October) to have a few injections to recover for the Euro’s.”
Fortunately, the sacrifice paid off in scintillating style as Buck progressed from only second-place in the British trial and third on the national season’s rankings with 46.38 to being crowed third in Europe.
“This season’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride,” revealed Buck.
“It’s been a big learning curve and we got it wrong a couple of times – before, I was worried the training load wasn’t coming off me, though we were confident I’d run well by Paris.
It was fantastic as I got exactly what I wanted - two medals.
The 400m rankings were so close but I’m pretty good at leading the race from early on and I had to ease back on the second lap when past experience allowed me to execute the race well.
It was a strange sensation of mixed emotions as I’d lost the silver I thought I had on the home straight but a medal is still fantastic for me - I’m absolutely delighted, it’s a huge step forward and I’m very happy and proud.”
Adding a second bronze to his collection, Buck is also keen to praise the strength of the relay team which took the same medal colour in the 2009 edition of the event:
“The relay was a little frustrating as it was so close – some teams had some lucky breaks but that’s indoor running,” he explained after running an impressive 46.0 split.
“We were really happy with silver but we know we’re capable of winning.
I’ve always loved being part of the relay squad – we’ve got such fantastic depth what with the four of us, Michael and Martyn (Bingham and Rooney, the European outdoor silver and bronze-medallists) and others – we’re all highly-competitive on the global level and though we’ve missed out on the big medals in previous years, we’re getting back into our grove now.”
Renowned as an indoor specialist, Buck sits at 15th on the UK all-time list courtesy of a 46.22 clocking from the 2007 season and is keen to replicate the form he has produced on the boards again this summer.
Having finished only eighth in the British Championships last July, the Leeds Metropolitan University sports coaching graduate is eager to return to the shape which saw him win the 2007 title in 46.13 – which is still his personal-best time to date.
Indeed, by heading off to Italy for a spell of warm-weather training with the UK
Athletics camp in May, Buck hopes to kick-start his summer campaign and finally improve upon his outdoor best.
Recording only 46.23 in an injury-plagued 2010 season, just a few months after collecting the national indoor title, Buck revealed:
“It was unfortunate that my body struggled with the load last year.
With no consistent training, I didn’t get going and wasn’t flowing but I was still pleased to finish the season after tearing my hamstring in 2009.
My coaches are aware I have a fragile frame so they put a lot of time in to ensuring I stay healthy.”
With Augusts’ World Championships in Daegu, South Korea the big focus of the summer,
Buck is equally aware how tough both the qualifying standard and level of competition for even a berth on the British squad will be.
As the ‘A’ qualifying mark is over half a second faster than his best, Buck is cautiously optimistic on his aspirations for both the global event and next summer’s key goal – the 2012 London Olympics:
“Realistically, I’m going to have to be on my game for the trials to even make the World’s,” he explained.
“I don’t imagine I will make it as an individual this year but I hope to make a big leap forward – the aim’s to make the relay team and we hope to medal.”
And with little under a year and half left to assert himself as an Olympic hopeful,
Buck intends to further progress beyond his new-found international status:
“It’s brilliant we’ve got the Games - I’m a Yorkshire-man who likes to stay at home so it’s good,” he revealed.
“I saw in Paris how the home crowd support really boosts the performances.
I want to make the individual final so I hope to take half a second off this year and again next year – that would be amazing and as far as the relay goes, we want a medal and to cause an upset.
2012’s all I let myself think about – it would be unfair to the fans and everyone if I didn’t give it 110%.”