BMX star Buchanan takes shot at Olympics

BMX star Caroline Buchanan is departing Australia for World Cups in Italy which she hopes will help secure her selection for the Tokyo Olympics.

Australian BMX cyclist Caroline Buchanan admits thinking she'd never get here: the starting line of her bid to become a triple Olympian.

The 10-time world champion departs for Italy on Friday night to compete at two World Cup meets.

Podium finishes will strengthen Buchanan's selection claims for the Tokyo Games starting on July 23.

And it would cap an astonishing comeback that even the dual Olympian, at times, doubted could happen.

Her career literally hung in the balance after an off-road vehicle crash on New Year's Eve in 2017: broken sternum, both lungs and her heart wall lining punctured; massive internal bleeding.

Surgery in Australia was deemed too risky. So Buchanan flew to the United States, signing a waiver warning of a 50 per cent mortality rate for infection around the sternum bone.

Her sternum was essentially plated and bolted together. For seven months, she couldn't lift her arms above her head.

Only in 2019 could Buchanan ride again but eight kilograms of muscle - vital in the power sport of BMX racing - had wasted away.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement of the Tokyo Games from last year to this, a blessing for Buchanan.

"A year ago if the Olympics were on, it would have been a close call for me to be selected," Buchanan told AAP on Friday.

"Twelve months ago, I had only just returned from two and a half years out from the sport with injuries.

"I was a little rusty and I needed ro rebuild eight kilo of muscle."

Her absence also meant she dropped outside the Cycling Australia network.

"Honestly, in January this year, it was probably the first time in my career that I have ever considered quitting on a major goal," she said.

"One, I didn't know if the Olympics were going to be on.

'But, two, this past 12 months with no Olympic qualifers or benchmarks or any opportunity to get on the Australian team, I had to build my network around me.

"In the past two Olympic Games I have had amazing support from the Institute of Sport in my hometown of Canberra, the network and the support from Australian Cycling.

"This this past 12 months I haven't.

"That has been probably the biggest mental toll, to be in contention for an Olympics but not supported by a national federation.

"The mental struggle is to continue that belief to stay on track towards a goal.

"There's a lot of athletes being caught in this grey area of how you pick an Olympic team a year on from when it was meant to with no credible racing or no performance activity.

"It does come back to a very discretionary, political window."

Buchanan is spending upwards of $20,000 to race in Verona on May 8-9, chasing podium finishes she hopes will make a compelling case for selection for Tokyo.

"You have got to have that belief in yourself," she said.

"I have been racing since the age of five, 25 years now - 10 world titles and two Olympic Games.

"Athletes that have heart, that trumps performance at the end of the day a lot of the time."