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Brooke Buschkuehl

Brooke Buschkuehl is an Olympic long jumper for Australia. In April of 2013, after several bouts of illness and injury, Buschkuehl was diagnosed with coeliac disease and was found to be gluten intolerant. She had been struggling with fatigue for the majority of the previous two years.

She spent time changing her diet and steadily her energy and wellness returned, which saw improvement in her performance.

Selected for her senior debut in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, she was forced to withdraw with an injury. In 2015, she competed at the world championships leaping 6.64m in the qualifying round. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, Stratton placed seventh in the final with a leap of 6.74m, then at the 2017 World Championships she placed sixth in the final - the highest place by an Aussie in the event.

At the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, she won silver with a leap of 6.77m .Selected for Tokyo, her second Olympic Games after her best domestic campaign in a number of years, at the Games she was terrific, placing seventh with her longest ever leap of 6.83m in the green and gold. Buschkuehl was very pleased with the fifth longest jump of her career considering her very rocky lead-in with injury.

In Eugene, competing at her fourth World Championships, Buschkuehl leapt 6.87m to finish fifth. In was an incredibly close competition with just 2cm separating third to sixth. For Buschkuehl it was her highest place in a global meet and her longest jump at a Games or Championships. But there was more to come for Buschkuehl, when two weeks later she competed at her second Commonwealth in Birmingham. There she leapt a windy 6.84m in the qualifying around ahead of her best series ever in the final with her lowest of her four jumps 6.87m, topped by a best of 6.95m. She won silver, to match her Gold Coast Games performance four years prior. We were very fortunate to chat with Brooke as she shares her experiences and advice for people living a gluten free lifestyle.

You're having an incredible career, is there a particular highlight that stands out for you on your journey so far?

I always find this question difficult to answer, however I think my Commonwealth Games silver medal in 2018 on the Gold Coast would be my highlight. I had a very interrupted preparation due to having a stress fracture in the sesamoid bone in my take off foot, so to have come away with a silver medal and having my family and friends in the crowd to share the moment with made it super special.

When were you diagnosed with coeliac disease?

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2013.

Did you have much awareness about what coeliac disease was when you were told you had the condition?

I had never heard of coeliac disease prior to my diagnosis. It was quite overwhelming being diagnosed as there was a lot to learn and I had to spend a lot of time educating myself as well as my family and friends around what the condition was. I joined Coeliac Australia and worked closely with a dietitian during my transition to a gluten free diet which really helped.

How do you best navigate international travel whilst staying true to your gluten-free diet requirements?

International travel has been quite challenging at times, however I have had 10 years of traveling and competing as a coeliac now, so I have developed a lot of strategies to make it a little less stressful. I travel with a lot of snacks and food options including wheat free oats (I have done a medically supervised oats challenge), bread, tuna cans, microwave rice and protein powder. I also travel with toaster bags and this year I took a mini rice cooker away with me. I don't eat out when I am traveling unless its at a dedicated gluten free cafe or restaurant just to be sure I am not going to get sick prior to competing. I also try to book accomodation with cooking facilities where I can to give myself the option to prepare my own meals and know that it is 100% gluten free.

Have you ever felt any extra stress prior to events knowing the consequences if you accidentally consume gluten? If so, what have you done to manage this. 

I always feel a bit anxious around competition time knowing if I accidentally consume gluten its going to significantly effect my performance. I work very closely with a dietitian at the Victorian Institute of Sport who has been incredible! She writes me up a meal plan which always comprises of foods that are easy for me to access when traveling. We also plan ahead to make sure I am super organised and don't experience too many road bumps along the way to increase the level of stress or anxiety I may feel around competitions.

What advice would you give to a young athlete who has recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease?

My biggest piece of advice from my experiences would be to book in to see a dietitian. Early on I struggled to know what foods I could and couldn't eat which made planning my meals around training and competition a little difficult. I was also struggling to understand how to fuel my body properly for my sport/event given a huge shift in what I was eating. I seeked advice from a dietitian and I cannot express enough how much this helped.

Can you share any specific gluten-free meals or snacks that you find particularly beneficial and enjoyable for fuelling your training and games?

I am generally a pretty plain eater, however around training and competition time one of my staple meals is tuna and rice. I don't exactly enjoy eating tuna that much but I know its a safe option and its a good source of protein. I enjoy eating bananas, carmans muesli bars and gluten free lollies (simply Wize) before and during my training.

What advice would you give to aspiring athletes with dietary restrictions looking to excel in their chosen sport?

Don't ever feel like having coeliac disease or a dietary restriction will hold you back from achieving your sporting dreams. After my coeliac diagnosis I questioned whether I would still be able to make it to the Olympics and achieve my sporting goals and I have absolutely exceeded all expectations.

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