When Alex Beck went to his first world championships in 2013 he could never have imagined it would take him six years to get back.
In the time since, Beck has found out the hard way that things don’t just happen the brutal world of athletics.
Speaking to emageogroup.com from Doha as he prepares for the 4x400m relay heats with his Australian teammates, Beck revealed how the struggle had helped him appreciate just what it meant to be at a major event.
“It’s been a long time between drinks,” the now 27-year-old said. “I was pretty young and naive to just assume that it was going to be something that would happen for me every year. I probably was a little bit guilty of not taking that first experience as seriously as I should have.
“Back then we made the final. It was a bit like: ‘How good is this?’ I was 21. First senior team, first world championship final, the team was sort of on the up at that time and it was really surreal but until you sort of experience that disappointment of not being selected and the team not doing as well as it should, you sit back and go: ‘Wow, that was something that was pretty special’.”
It took some raw and honest conversations to turn it around
Missing the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics hurt but it was having to watch a home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast from the sidelines last year that proved the circuit breaker.
“It probably started after Rio,” Beck said. “In 2016 I was still training really well, I’d run my personal best in the back end of 2015 so was going into that season really confident and running well and things just sort of didn’t happen for me.
“But missing that home Commonwealth Games, for me that was really the catalyst for change. In those previous two years I was probably a little bit afraid to take action and it was actually a conversation with some very close friends of mine who are not involved in elite sport at all that had an impact.
“They just sort of said to me: ‘Mate, what you’re doing is not working’. It just reassured me that those voices in the back of my head were right and then from there I took that advice on board. I changed my coach, my training environment, my routine, I changed my training squad and it was tough at the time but now 15 months later, I’m back in a really good position, back on a world championships team.
“You don’t like to admit it but it did pop into my head at one point or another, will you ever get back to that level?’
“I am a little bit older and hopefully a little bit wiser now, you sort of realise the importance of all those little extra bits and pieces and I probably trace that to a change of attitude as to why I’m back there now. I took a hard look in the mirror and realised that if I kept doing what I was doing I wasn’t going to get there.
“I think now I’m really just really thankful to be back on this stage and just trying to soak up every minute when I’m out on the track.”
There is plenty on the line for Australia and Beck in Doha
Beck views Tokyo 2020 as his last chance to compete at an Olympics after narrow misses for London 2012 and Rio.
A top-eight finish in Doha will qualify the Australian 4x400m relay team for the Tokyo Games.
“To represent your country at an Olympics is the pinnacle and I’m doing everything in my power to get there next year,” Beck said.
“The team is well aware that this is arguably our best ticket to Tokyo. Everyone is here with the intent and the desire to tick that box and achieve that top-eight result.
“I think we can make the final, definitely. Realistically, if you put the four of us together on paper, our times don’t compare but in one of those scenarios out on the track, put a baton in our hands and we can really defy expectations. We have faith that we can get out there and achieve well beyond what we’re capable of individually.”
A new coach and familiar West Australian face is leading the way
Beck revealed new 4x400m coach and former Team Emageo star Ben Offereins was having a huge influence on the group.
“Ben has brought so much to the team in such a short time already,” he said. “The men’s 4x400m has been a really good, cohesive unit for a number of years now. We’ve had some really good successes – the silver bullets team from Athens and the world championships team from 2009 where they got bronze – Ben was in that team.
“Bringing that sort of experience and success, as well as the knowledge of being at that top level for a number of years, has really helped the team. We’ve got a couple of old heads on the team with me and Steve Solomon but some young guys coming through as well so it’s a really nice mix of youth and experience.
“Ben is bringing us together. We understand we’re in a position where we’re not one of the favourites going in and we do have to push and take a few risks to make that final. Ben is doing a great job and we’re excited.”
The Australians will compete in the heats on Saturday. Stay tuned to emageogroup.com for updates.