Rising pole vault star Eliza McCartney is ranked fifth in the world going into the World Youth Championships staged in Donetsk (July 10-14). We caught up with the North Harbour Bays 16-year-old on her progress and aspirations for her Ukrainian challenge tomorrow.
How did you get into the pole vault?
EM: One of my friends wanted to train as a decathlete and as pole vault is in the decathlon and I was high jumping at the time I thought pole vaulting looked like fun, so I gave it a go. I was either aged 14 or just turning 14 at the time.
What are your memories of your first pole vaulting experience?
EM: It started off very slowly. To begin with you are just holding on to the pole and falling onto the mat. I do remember, though, the first time that the pole bent – that was quite exciting. Shooting up the air after bending the pole is such a different feeling.
You were never afraid of the event?
EM: It was a little bit scary at first. I think that is the case for all things you try that is a bit different. It is scary but exciting at the same time.
Do you have a background in other sports?
EM: I played a lot of netball but I made the decision this year I’d rather focus on the pole vault. Netball is high injury risk, particularly on the knees and ankles, and I wasn’t able to commit to a full season.
Where is your talent from in for the pole vault?
EM: My mum did a bit of gymnastics and as gymnastics is important to the pole vault I think that has helped. My dad did a little bit of high jump. He finished third at the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Championships and he got close to 2.00m. So I’d say I get my talent from both.
Who are your pole vaulting heroes?
EM: I’d say Sergey Bubka and Yelena Isinbayeva (the men’s and women’s world record holders) Those guys were amazing. I’d, obviously, love to one day be at the level those guys are at.
What are the qualities of your coach, Jeremy McColl?
EM: I’ve been working with him since I started pole vaulting. I don’t know how he does it? It is like he can watch me train in slow motion. He can pick out little tiny thing that normally would be very hard to notice. Everything he has is a strength. I’m really very lucky.
Why would you encourage other people to get involved in the pole vault?
EM: I see it as a really growth area. New Zealand has some really good coaches and really good facilities. It is not like we can’t do well at the event. It is also a fun event, too.
You are currently ranked No.5 in the world. What are your expectations for the forthcoming World Youth Championships?
EM: I want to do really well and jump around 4.20m. I’m feeling really good and just want to get my teeth into it. Rankings don’t mean too much to me. I just want to do my best.
Have you ever been to the Ukraine before
EM: No (laughs). I’ve been the Europe before and a few Asian countries but never the Ukraine.
What are your strengths as a vaulter?
EM: I never did any gymnastics and many pole vaulters did, so that is definitely a weakness. I’m more of an athlete rather than a gymnast, so that is definitely my strength.
What is the best part of the pole vault?
EM: The best part is going over the bar when it is set at a high height. That is definitely a good feeling.