HIS London Olympics dream shattered, Essendon sprinter Aaron Rouge-Serret is walking away from the track to make up for lost time catching up on real life.
The 24-year-old was a Commonwealth Games finalist in Delhi but will not be heading to London after a combination of injury and error kept him from posting an Olympic qualifying time.
Rouge-Serret is now pursuing another long-term goal of his, joining the police force.
The running cleats have not been hung up for good though and Rouge-Serret said his career change was a break from the track, not a retirement.
It could have been very different for Rouge-Serret had he not false started at the Australian National Championships in April.
Battling back from an arthroscope in time to race at the nationals ramped up the pressure on Rouge-Serret heading into the 100m final at Lakeside Stadium.
The nerves on the blocks were obvious, with one competitor (Mitchell Williams-Swain) called unsteady and Rouge-Serret distracted by what he believed was a false start by eventual winner Joshua Ross.
After the athletes were set a second time, Rouge-Serret false started and was disqualified.
‘‘I was pretty devastated, you do the training for the whole year which leads up to this 10-second race, with the rule being one false start and you’re DQ’d just like that,’’ he said.
‘‘I wasn’t happy, I didn’t watch the race. I went back down the tunnel, had a word with my coach (Adam Larcom) and waited for family and friends to come out.
‘‘In my head that was it for me. It’s been a long and hard road with athletics. It’s been good to me, there’s been good times and bad times.
‘‘But it’s time for me to get a good steady job, get all the bases down, and get a steady income.’’
Rouge-Serret said working was difficult with two to three training sessions a day.
‘‘To get to the level I wanted, an Olympic athlete, make a final, you can’t do these things without being full time.
‘‘You have to live, breathe and sleep athletics. At times it was tough but it was also great, and I love the lifestyle.’’
Rouge-Serret’s personal best is 10.17 over 100m and he started the athletics season with a 10.34 in Brisbane in January.
‘‘That was the quickest I’ve ever opened a season. I was in really good shape to run quickly this year but then pulled cartilage off the back of my (right) knee. It was giving me trouble coming out of the blocks and after a few sessions it had swelled up and I had to get it scanned.’’
Rouge-Serret said he had been planning to join the police force straight after coming back from London had he made the Olympic team, and the career change had been in the works for some time.
‘‘As you get older you have to take responsibility, unfortunately the toughest events are the 100m and 200m.
‘‘Joining the police force is something I’ve always wanted to do. I have mates in the force...I was even looking at it two or three years ago but I couldn’t commit to it and stay training full time.
‘‘It’s unfortunate that I’ve bitten the bullet in an Olympic year. I called Eric (Hollingsworth, track and field high performance manager) and told him I’m not retiring, it’s just time off.
‘‘I am only 24 and they say sprinters don’t peak until they are 28, even up to 32. That’s another two Olympics I am definitely a chance of making.
‘‘The fire is definitely still in the belly...I’ll be back.’’
ATHLETICS Essendon sprint coach Adam Larcom believes the best is yet to come for Aaron Rouge-Serret.
A tough couple of months for Essendon’s sprint stocks culminated in Larcom’s other Olympic hopeful, Charlotte Van Veenendaal, missing out on the London games also.
While Rouge-Serret was disqualified from the national championships and unable to post an A-qualifier in the 100m sprint, Van Veenendaal had been a regular in Australia’s 4x100m women’s relay.
But results at the recent European Championships pushed Australia’s 4x100m team out of the world top 16, and subsequently out of the Olympics.
Rouge-Serret is not a member of the men’s 4x100 team that will be competing in London.
‘‘He’s a young guy who needs balance in life,’’ Larcom said.
‘‘Training as a full time athlete is full on and it’s very important he get his life up to speed.
‘‘One year out of the sport doesn’t really affect you too much. Sprinters are at their best 28-30 and he’s got one or two Olympics he can still aim for.’’
Australia had been clinging to 16th position and the last Olympic berth for the women’s 4x100 before two European teams pushed them down to 18th earlier this month.
‘‘It’s really difficult for Charlotte being in a relay team and waiting for results from other countries to come through,’’ Larcom said.
‘‘They’re both very positive people, and while it’s not water off a duck’s back, they will move on.’’
Larcom has been involved with Athletics Essendon for more than a decade and will continue coaching, including a role with the national relay program.