Series13 May 2017

That moment when... McCartney realised she had an exciting future in pole vault


Eliza McCartney of New Zealand in the pole vault at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 (© Getty Images)

Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney is one of the rising stars of global athletics. Here the 20-year-old New Zealand vaulter recalls a significant victory in her then fledgling career.



“A key moment in my career arrived at the 2011 Australian Junior Championships when I came away with an unexpected gold medal. I had taken up pole vaulting aged 13 just seven months earlier, and I recall during those very early sessions carrying out the most basic elements. Then after I started improving (in the sessions) my coach, Jeremy McColl, said, ‘why don’t you come to training four times a week?’

“At that time, I thought playing any sport four times a week was a little excessive. But I agreed and I made my competitive debut in mid-November, jumping 2.40m. From that point on things moved very quickly in my first domestic season.

“Leading into the Australian Juniors in Sydney in March of 2011, I must have competed about a dozen times and I was excited to compete overseas for the first time. Back then I was very naïve and I assumed the Australian girls would be better than me. It was also one of the first occasions I had competed under full IAAF rules, and I remember becoming flustered when the officials removed my cell phone and spike key in the call room.

“I don’t remember too many specifics of the day, although I certainly wasn’t the No.1 ranked athlete. I just went out and had fun. I recall equalling my PB of 3.30m at the time and after my nearest rival missed that height, I had won gold. I then went on to jump a PB of 3.40m.

“I vividly recall after this competition returning home to New Zealand when Jeremy (my coach) spoke to my mum and me. He said he thought I would be competing at the 2013 World Youth Championships (McCartney went on to place fourth at those championships in Donetsk), which at that point was still more than two years away.

"At the time, it was all too much to comprehend, but looking back it was my first glimpse into Jeremy’s amazing insight as a coach. Each year since, he has predicted each year what I could go on to achieve. It has only been in the past year or so I have had the confidence and belief to realise I am capable of meeting his expectations.

“That win in Sydney was significant because it was the starting point. It was a pivotal moment and made me realise athletics, and more specifically the pole vault, was not just like one of the other sports I competed in. It proved I had the ability to be the best in Australasia in my age group and that I had a natural talent for pole vault.”

Steve Landells for the IAAF