Having raced at three IAAF World Championships, two Olympic Games and represented Australia on multiple other occasions, Jeff Riseley (VIC) is a well-travelled athlete. But by his own admission, Riseley has never been able to fulfil his great potential on the world stage.
But now, with the IAAF World Championships in Beijing (CHN) next month, Riseley’s current form and attitude suggests he may finally get that big international breakthrough he’s been searching for, and remove all doubt over his international competitiveness.
“Every athlete is their harshest critic, so I'm certainly aware of my reputation in those big races. At last year’s Commonwealth Games where I was able to keep backing up and producing strong performance five days in a row has given me a lot of confidence that I can compete at a major championships,” Riseley said.
“Beijing is going to be a lot harder than Glasgow so I know I have to go to another level. My goal is to turn around that tag and make sure that I'm competing at my best come August 19th.”
Hoping to achieve success amongst the world’s best is no easy feat, but Riseley, in his 12th senior season is confident in his recent training and the improvement he has shown under his new coach, Andrew Russell.
“Last year was a bit of a transition year for me, but lately it’s been really nice to put some more good training on top of last year and continue to consolidate my performances. Andrew and I still think I that have my best running ahead of me,” Riseley said.
One of Australia’s most accomplished middle distance runners in the last decade, Riseley has had a fruitful career both at home and abroad, racking up an impressive passport that has seen him race in 24 different nations across America, Europe and Asia.
With a deep hunger to succeed, Riseley still has much to give to the sport, with his current times only fractions off his personal bests for the 1500m and 800m which he set in 2009 and 2012 respectively.
It has been an impressive period of racing for Riseley in recent times, having just completed one of his finest domestic seasons to date, culminating in two gold medals in the 800m and 1500m at the Australian Championships.
Riseley, who became the first man in 24 years to win the 800m/1500m double at the Australian Athletics Championships since Simon Boyle in 1991 agrees that this accomplishment ranks high in his achievements.
“This domestic season was certainly the most satisfying for me. Just being able to continue to put good performances together and remind myself I've still got a lot to give in this sport,” Riseley said.
“But I also targeted the domestic season as a chance to practice my racing and build a platform to launch me into Europe. The work myself and my coach Andrew Russell have put in is now paying off.”
At 28 years of age, Riseley is the most senior of his local rivals - in the finals of this year’s Australian Championships he was the eldest runner in both of his events.
Though it’s certainly not a reason to discount the towering Victorian. In the last six months he has posted two of his top five fastest 800m times, and is noticeably close to the Australian record, which stands at 1:44.40 and is held jointly by Ralph Doubell in 1968 and Alex Rowe in 2014.
But according to Riseley, it’s an area that both he and his coach choose to deliberately ignore.
“Andrew and I haven't talked about the Australian record and made a point not to. It’s obviously very important to me and been a goal for a long while now. But we know that to be successful in Beijing I'm going to have to produce three performances in four days that are better than that time.”
Currently in Europe, Riseley’s preparation is focused around simplicity and ease.
“Training has been going well, the main aim has just been trying to do all the little things and build on from what I was able to achieve in Glasgow. I just try to do the basics better than I ever have and get the preparation right so I can perform as well as I possibly can,” Riseley said.
With Beijing fast approaching, it’s more than possible Riseley will be able to break his struggles and produce a world class time against the world’s best middle distance athletes.
Backed by his red-hot form, race knowledge and years of experience, Riseley’s unnerving longevity and hunger to improve will surely see his great career become even greater in the years to come.