With the countdown on to the Rio Olympic Games, Waikato is proud to be home to many potential Olympic athletes. This month we take a closer look at track and hurdle competitor Cameron French – and the fractions of a second that separate him from Olympic representation.
In the past year Cameron French has faced hurdles both on and off the track. After placing a remarkable in the 400m Hurdles event at the 2015 World University Games, the former National Hurdles Champion was in flying shape for the 2016 New Zealand athletics season, with his sights set on qualifying for this year’s Olympic Games.
Unfortunately an injury to his achilles tendon in training set back his competition schedule and Cameron was unable to return to his 2015 form, when he equalled the New Zealand 400m Hurdles record of 49.72 seconds – his current personal best.
Cameron is a mere 0.32 seconds off the 400m Hurdles Olympic qualifying standard of 49.40 seconds. He has until July 11 to better the time and earn his spot on the New Zealand Athletics Olympic team.
Cameron’s Road to Rio now takes him to Europe to train with and compete against some of the world’s best athletes, where he hopes to be pushed to new speeds and fast times.
This month Cameron tells us about his upcoming competition plans, the training he does “off the track”, his support team, and what inspires him.
Where are you currently at with your training and competition schedule?
Training at the moment is focused on building fitness and strength, following the injury I carried in the early months of the year which stopped me from doing high training volumes.
I’m pain free now so training intensity has picked up and I’ve been able to do more work on technique and practising hurdle patterns and rhythm. The New Zealand athletics season finished in March so I’m travelling to Europe to compete in the northern hemisphere athletics season. My first few races will be in Belgium and Switzerland, and I’ll decide with my coach where to after Switzerland as it depends on my performances. Ideally I’d like to achieve the Olympics qualifying time in one of my first few races.
What do you do “off the track” that you believe is key to your success?
Recovery and nutrition are important aspects to keeping me in top shape. To keep my body loose I will see my massage therapist or chiropractor once a week.
I also do regular hot/cold pool routines where I sit in ice cold water for a minute then jump into hot water for a minute. Doing this and a lot of stretching helps my body to recover faster after intense sessions, ensuring I can give 100% at the next day’s training. I try not to stress too much about my diet but I believe in the theory that you wouldn’t put diesel in a race car – only the best quality fuel will make it perform at its best – and this goes for an athlete’s body and food as fuel too. But I’m not crazy about restrictions. I’m flexible and eat a balanced diet. Mentally, I focus on doing daily activities well rather than focusing on the result or the outcome.
Who make up your support team and how important are they to achieving your goals?
I am very lucky to have a big support team that helps me in different ways.
It’s hard to mention everyone, but most importantly are my family and friends, my girlfriend Camille who is also an athlete, and my coach Criss Strange. These people are with me every day, supporting me at the track when no one else is there and also with the usual daily living responsibilities. I have an amazing medical team who all work together to keep my body in one piece, including Steve Burdon at Healthy Ventures Massage, Dr. Lloyd Buscomb at Waikato Chiropractic, Melissa Gilbertson at Performance Plus Physio, as well as the support staff at HPSNZ. Another important part of my team are my sponsors. With their generous support I am able to live as a full-time high performance athlete. They are New World Te Rapa, Waikato Chiropractic, Lodge Real Estate and New Balance.
I wouldn’t be able to achieve the results I have without my team and I’m very fortunate to live in the Waikato where we have great people supporting athletes.
What would it mean to you to represent New Zealand at the Olympics?
To represent New Zealand anywhere in the world is an awesome feeling. It was always a dream of mine since I was young to represent New Zealand at the Olympics which are the world’s pinnacle sporting event and be able to do that would be a dream come true.
What is your favourite motivational quote?
“Whether you think you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” This quote by Henry Ford is the best way to show the importance of believing in yourself.
Follow Cam on his Road to Rio on social media