Natalya Diehm’s growing Tokyo Olympics ambitions turned on one phone call from Australian cycling great Caroline Buchanan.
Late last year, Diehm was recovering from her fourth knee reconstruction and on the verge of quitting freestyle BMX after more than a decade in the sport.
But Buchanan, who knows more than most about overcoming injury adversity, could see what might happen if Diehm persisted.
Fast-forward a year and Diehm is well on the way to riding at the Tokyo Games when freestyle makes its Olympics debut.
“This time last year, the Olympics and riding again weren’t an option – I thought the risk isn’t worth it,” Diehm said.
“Then I had a call from Caroline Buchanan and she said ‘I hope you know the opportunity you have. Please just give it one more shot’.
“Honestly, it’s been the best thing ever.”
Australia is not yet qualified for women’s freestyle BMX at the Olympics but Diehm’s sixth place at the November world championships went a long way to securing it.
She has continued to rack up qualifying points at the Oceania championships and Diehm is now thinking well beyond just going to Tokyo.
“I dream – I feel confident that I can make the podium. That’s my goal,” she said.
“It’s not far, it’s right here.
“If the Olympics are tomorrow, I’m going.
“Now it just makes me want to push harder and keep learning new things and progressing, to keep my spot.”
Meanwhile, Buchanan also aims to make her third Olympics in BMX racing, which is a separate discipline to freestyle.
She suffered life-threatening injuries in an off-road car crash two years ago.
“She (Buchanan) gave me the things I needed to hear and helped me overcome my fear of injury again, also what I can do to help prevent it, get mentally stronger,” Diehm said.
“I can do this. She’s right. And look where I am.
“Racing and freestyle are separate disciplines in the tight-knit sport of BMX. While the racing is point-to-point over a course full of turns and jumps, freestyle is the bicycle version of motocross stunt riding.