Sarah Carli has spent years plotting an assault on the European athletics circuit.
From the moment she qualified for the semi-finals of the 400-metres hurdles at the 2019 World Championships, the Wollongong talent has had the confidence she can match it with the sport's elite.
Such opportunities for high-level racing are limited in Australia, our nation lacking the depth on show in America and Europe.
Circumstances, however, have conspired against Carli in recent years.
COVID prevented the 27-year-old from travelling to Europe in 2020.
Twelve months later, a life-threatening injury suffered in the gym almost derailed her Olympics campaign altogether.
Suddenly existing plans were thrown out the window, Carli focused on just making it to Tokyo.
She eventually overcame the odds to compete at the Olympics, however she was underdone and well below her best.
Finally the stars have aligned in 2022 and Carli is determined to turn heads in Europe.
"It will be my biggest season overseas," Carli said.
"This is what I've trained for and I've wanted to be on the international circuit my whole career.
"The past two years I haven't been able to do that, with my accident and with COVID, so I'm excited to go and do what I've dreamed about doing as an athlete and that's get on the international circuit.
"I'm ready for this challenge. I've done as much as I can being in Australia and I know if I want to take the next step as an athlete, I need to be thrown into the deep end with girls that are better than me."
While Carli will travel to Europe early next month, she has one last box to tick in Australia before she jets off overseas.
The 27-year-old will contest the 400m hurdles at the Oceania Championships in Mackay on June 8, the goal to run the World Championships and Commonwealth Games qualifier.
Carli will also race in the 4x400m relay at the competition, where she hopes to book a place in the Australian women's team for the Commonwealth Games.
Achieving the hurdles qualifying time will ease the pressure heading over to Finland, Carli able to focus on preparing for the two upcoming championships, rather than chasing races in order to achieve the mark.
This is what I've trained for my whole career.- Sarah Carli
Carli has previously run quicker than the standard and was close when she won the final at the recent Australian Championships.
That event came soon after a hamstring niggle and she's confident with two more months of training, she will run faster than the magic mark of 55.4 seconds.
"I'm feeling really good, I feel like I'm in PB shape," Carli said.
"I had a bit of a hamstring niggle so I missed a bit of the domestic season, so I'm looking forward to Oceania and then heading overseas.
"I would like to get it done before I head overseas and just tick the box. I feel I'm in PB shape and I know I can run that time."
Once she arrives in Europe, Carli will set up camp for what she hopes will be a 10-week trip overseas.
Coach Mel Smith won't join the hurdler until she, hopefully, travels to America to compete at the World Championships in Oregon.
Carli won't be on her own in Europe.
She'll live with the likes of Peter Bol, Bendere Oboya, Tess Kirsopp-Cole and a handful of others, the athletes feeding off each other as they pursue track success.
It's an environment Carli has long dreamed of experiencing and she's confident it will be the first of many northern hemisphere summers.
"My manager has a group of athletes that are going to be based together, so I won't be on my own,'' she said. ''I should have a few other athletes there, we've got a nice little crew staying together.
"I'm really looking forward to getting to be a full-time elite athlete.
''I will be working remotely overseas, which I think is really important, but I'm looking forward to getting to go live that athlete lifestyle."
Sports reporter at the Canberra Times
Sports reporter at the Canberra Times
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