RICHARD BUCK boasts a silver and bronze medal from previous World Indoor Championships – now the York athlete wants to complete the set by claiming gold in Poland this weekend.
Buck, who is a member of the City of York Athletic Club, was part of the British 4x400m relay squad that finished third in the 2010 World Indoors in Doha before going one better to finish as runners-up in Istanbul two years ago.
The 27-year-old has been selected for the individual 400m in Sopot this weekend, along with Nigel Levine, and is targeting his first appearance in the final of an individual event at World Championship level.
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However, it is the relay that represents his best chance of success, with the British squad that also features Levine, Daniel Awde, Michael Bingham, Jamie Bowie, Luke Lennon-Ford and Conrad Williams expected to start as one of the favourites for gold.
“My aim for the individual event is to reach the final,” said Buck, who was an unused member of Great Britain's 4x400m relay squad at the 2012 Olympics in London. “That will be a step up from previous championships where I have made the semi-finals three times.
“I have been getting closer every time and to get to the final would be a great achievement. When you step up, you want to finish as high as possible. I would love to challenge for a medal. My times aren’t out of touch with everyone.
“The relay team has been growing in strength over the past couple of years. We were so close to taking gold at the last World Championships and we are the reigning European (indoor) champions.
“We are going to look for the gold and, while it would be great to come away with a medal, there is a lot of expectation among ourselves.”
Buck, whose only senior gold medal to date came as part of the 4x400m team at the last European Championships in Gothenburg, has long been regarded as something of an indoor specialist.
But his performances since the turn of the year have represented a new career peak, and he will head to Poland in ideal shape.
His season-best run of 46.09secs in the 'B' final at last month's Sainsbury's Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham secured his spot in the individual event at the Worlds, and underlined the progress he has made as the indoor season has unfolded.
As a veteran of three previous World Indoor Championships, he is one of the more experienced members of a largely youthful GB team.
But while this weekend's championships, which run from Friday until Sunday, might not be a new experience, the thrill of pulling on a British vest at a major event remains as powerful as ever.
“I absolutely love it,” said Buck. “I want to take every opportunity I can. It’s great to go and compete at this level. It is something that I love doing. I am proud to step out onto the track in the GB vest any time I can.
“It went really well in Birmingham. I had committed to hitting the front no matter what because I knew that, if nothing else, it would tell me what my fitness was. I had a really good race shape and hopefully that will continue in the Worlds.”
Earlier this winter, Buck had indicated that he would not be running in the individual event in Sopot as he did not want to risk burn out ahead of a hectic outdoor season.
With the Commonwealth Games and European Championships coming within ten days of each other, any athlete hoping to target both will be faced with an intensive schedule.
Buck is expected to prioritise the Commonwealths ahead of the Europeans, and the strength of his indoor form persuaded him to take up the offer of a place in both the individual 400m and the relay this weekend, even though it could mean competing in four races over the course of three days.
“It was quite a tough decision,” he said. “But I think the truth is that my race form seems to be getting better as I go along through the season. I feel I can hit the Worlds running and in some really good form.”