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Having previously spoken to elite decathlete Stephen Cain, James Sullivan has been chatting to another of Melbourne’s international standard athletes, Olympic steeplechaser Victoria Mitchell.

Victoria Mitchell is an elite middle distance runner from Melbourne, Australia, who specialises in the 3000m Steeplechase. She claimed the silver medal at the 2005 World University Games in Izmir, Turkey and the following year finished in 4th place at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in front of her home crowd. Later that year she finished 4th at the IAAF World Cup in Athens. She has also represented Australia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games, the 2007 World Athletics Championships in Osaka, along with multiple World Cross Country Championships.

Victoria Mitchell at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. So to begin, how did you first get involved in athletics?

Victoria: I did Little Athletics in Mansfield. I was always an active kid and then when I started at Mansfield Secondary College they had inter school athletic meets so it grew from there.

James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?

Victoria: Not really! I remember reading a quote ‘don’t have a hero, look up to no-one because if someone is leading the way you will always be second best’ and so I just thought I’d focus on being the best I could be regardless of others. Plus everyone has an awesome quality, we all excel at something.

James: How did you get involved in the Steeplechase?

Victoria: I saw the 2000m steeplechase on the program and thought I would have a go. I lined up not ever having jumped a barrier or water jump (but had jumped hurdles) and I enjoyed it and won. It kind of came naturally and I enjoyed it so I continued with it.

Competing at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka

James: In 2006 you finished 4th at the Commonwealth Games in front of your home crowd in Melbourne. Can you describe that experience?

Victoria: I was actually really disappointed at the time as I had put big expectations on myself. However I do recall walking down the ramp at the opening ceremony and feeling the buzz of the atmosphere. That was pretty special.

James: Two years later you represented Australia at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Can you put that experience into words?

Victoria: Words don’t really describe the experience but it was one of the best of my life so far.

James: What other moments from your career to date are you particularly proud of?

Victoria: Most of the moments I am most proud of are perhaps the least significant ones from an outsiders view. They don’t include the big races or my best results but rather it is those moments where I haven’t given up and have overcome barriers; mental, emotional, physical…in training, in life.

James: What would you describe as the most disappointing moment in your athletics career? What positives have you taken from it?

Victoria: There have been so many due to injuries and I find these type of setbacks the hardest part to deal with. However, with each one comes a good lesson and has given me greater strength so that is the positive side of it.

James: What are your goals for 2013?

Victoria: To be racing again at an international level.

James: Can you give an insight into the training regime for a steeplechase runner? In what particular ways does it differ from training for an event on the flat? What sort of technique based work do you do?

Victoria: My training has never really been different to a flat runner. I tried to add some steeplechase specific stuff to my program and I got injured. It was the way I went about it so I could possibly try a new method but I will be happy just to get back to my previous form of 2006 and that was off zero steeple work. I am a natural jumper which helps.

James: What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?

Victoria: My favourite is short hills. I really love the feeling of powering up them. I also really enjoy interval work where you can feel fast! My least favourite is threshold/tempo/time trial. More the one pace stuff.

James: Nutrition obviously plays an important part in the life of an elite athlete. What would be your typical dieting habits in the lead up to a big race?

Victoria: Same all year around, make healthy choices as often as possible. I don’t hold any superstitions.

James: Many Australian athletes have struggled with the track season in Europe and the major championships being at a different time to the Australian track season and can often peak three or four months too early. Is this, or has this been a concern for you, and how do you manage this challenge?

Racing on home soil at Melbourne's Lakeside Stadium

Victoria: This hasn’t been a problem for me as I have been out of action too often. However I would place emphasis on the meets abroad as there are better competitions there and incentives. Especially for the steeplechase event which has few competitors in Australia.

James: You are very familiar with the AV Shield, Victoria’s primary inter-club competition, which caters for every athlete regardless of age or standard. How important has this competition been with regards broadening the appeal of track and field and getting more of the average Joe’s involved in the sport? Going forward, how can this appeal be increased?

Victoria: It is a great competition to get people involved at all levels of the sport. More awareness and opportunity is a good way to reach people so events such as these should continue to promote our sport.

James: Do you feel athletics in Australia gets its fair share of funding or can more be done to help the sport develop? How do you support yourself financially?

Victoria: I have no idea about budgets of organisations but I know that there isn’t much funding for those that aren’t at the very top of the sport. I work and it seems that very few people can afford to be a full time athlete. It’s not a sport to do if you are after the big bucks.

James: That’s great Victoria. Thank you for your time and the very best of luck in 2013 and beyond.

Victoria: Thank you :)

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