In sporting terms, 2022 was a breakthrough year for runner Olli Hoare. He took a quantum leap in the world of athletics. 

He shattered Australian records, won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in an unforgettable performance, and found himself in the top echelon of the world’s best middle-distance men.

Professionally, it was his best year ever. Personally, his worst.

“Mentally, I had a lot of head noise,” Hoare told ABC Sport.

“I had a lot of issues dealing with it … I was very low.”

The then-25-year-old’s anxiety and depression were so extreme he considered retiring.

“I was very close to ringing my parents and just telling them I can’t do it anymore,” Hoare said.

“There were times when you look at your phone and click on the favourites and then my parents’ photo was there and I was thinking of clicking it.

“Sometimes I did click it and then I just didn’t say anything. We just talked about random stuff, about life.”

Olli Hoare won gold in the 1,500m at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.(Getty Images: David Ramos)

Living and training in Boulder, Colorado, Hoare was homesick and being away from family was compounded by the loss of his grandfather.

Even after winning Commonwealth gold, he felt nothing.

“I didn’t enjoy being around people … I struggled to find any meaning,” he revealed in a podcast he hosts with his best mates.

“I felt like a robot.

“I thought that maybe I had lost my passion for running. I questioned retiring.”

The turning point? Talking to someone about it.

Hoare opened up to his family and a therapist.

“I’ve been able to kind of identify that I can’t just run through things physically and achieve goals … but not deal with the mental implications of what I do,” Hoare explained.

“Being able to talk to people has really helped my progression as an athlete because I’ve learned so much … and identified what works best for me.”

Hoare’s monologue on his podcast was so raw he felt embarrassed.

After recording it, he hesitated but the podcast had already been released. The reception was overwhelmingly positive.

“The impact I got from other people about dealing with similar things or addressing the issues that they’ve had … or having that mental health discussion — it was very, very rewarding for me to learn that I’m not the only one and that people see this as an issue,” he said.

Pressing the reset button

Hoare had also realised his sacrifice and hard work were for both his family and himself, and he began to resuscitate his love and passion for running.

“That was a bit of a kick-starter. When your wi-fi is just screwing with you, for some reason it’s not working, if you just give it a bit of a reset button, and then it’s all working better than it was before,” he said.

Hoare had time to reflect in 2023 when a groin injury — a sports hernia to be specific — forced him to pull out of the World Championships in Budapest in August and abruptly “shut down” his year in an attempt to get his body right to reach another Olympics.

It was a tough pill to swallow but Hoare knew the agonising decision was the right one in the interests of longevity.

The athletics world reached out. A message from celebrated commentator Bruce McAvaney helped Hoare face the adversity and press the reset button.

“He sent me a great email just saying, ‘Keep at it, you’re a champion. We know where you’re at and you’ve got time to really do something great with this little period of rest that you have,'” he recalled.

“Hearing that from Brucey but also just from my family made me very confident that … you can turn a setback into one of your strengths.

‘Oh shit! We’re back at it’

The injury has been a blessing in disguise and ten months later, Hoare is “crushing workouts”.

“I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt on a logistic side of just overall running form and the injury has definitely given me a lot to think about in terms of just looking after my body, looking after who I am as an athlete,” Hoare said.

A happy and healthy Hoare is back home in Australia ready to race at the Australian Athletics Championships in Adelaide this week.

“I’ve done workouts the past six weeks where my coach and I were kind of shocked, like, “Oh shit’,” Hoare exclaimed.

“We’re in a place that, like, we thought we’d be but being able to execute workouts like that, it’s like damn, we’re back at it.”

The 27-year-old will test himself against a stacked field in his pet event the 1,500 metres, while also running the 5,000 metres.

Hoare headlines a 1,500-metre field that includes Olympic finalist Stewart McSweyn and 17-year-old running prodigy Cameron Myers.

The trio are the frontrunners jostling for a spot in Australia’s team for the Paris Olympics in July.

“The depth in the 1,500 alone just shows you that the event’s now grown so much in the country that we’re going to have athletes that whoever the top three are when they are selected in June, they’re going to be guys that you would expect to see in the final and hopefully competing for a medal,” Hoare said.

“Stewy has been a huge pillar of middle-distance running in Australia … [Cam’s] got a really mature head on his shoulders … I think he can go extremely far. The world is his oyster.”

Sharpening knives ahead of Paris Olympics

The championships in Adelaide will kick off a huge year for Hoare, who will then turn his attention to racing in Europe and America before, all things going to plan, Paris in July.

Hoare’s personal best for the 1,500m of 3:29:41 was an Oceania record he set last year at the Oslo Diamond League.

Hoare will compete in the 1,500m and the 5,000m at the Australian Championships in Adelaide.(Getty Images: Daniel Pockett)

Remarkably, he ran the race carrying an injury.

Now unencumbered and moving with confidence, he believes running a time around 3:27 is within his grasp.

He continues to focus on his mental health.

“That’s one of the main things mentally, is that I am capable,” Hoare said.

“I have the tools, like a good chef —his knives are all sharpened up.

“So for me, I’ve got my knives sharpened up ready to go mentally and physically and that’s an exciting factor for me is that I feel very, very confident in my mental side as well as my physical, and having that is definitely a game changer from 2022.”