Ordinarily for an 18-year-old, stepping out for her first Olympics would be an overwhelming moment of awe and splendour. Doubtless there are some of those emotions for Liz Parnov but there is also a sense of expectation, of a teenager stepping through the natural process of life, like getting her driver’s licence.
Parnov has seemed almost pre-ordained to do this, born to pole vault and be an Olympian. Some people find their way to their sports, other sports seek out their athletes. For some it’s a natural meeting.
Parnov was born to pole vault. Her aunt, father and sister all pole-vaulted. Her grandmother, too, was an Olympian. Her career trajectory, it seems, has been set from a young age. She is the niece of Tatiana Grigorieva, the Russian emigre who won silver for Australia in the pole vault in Sydney. Her father Alex was a champion vaulter in Russia before bringing the family to Australia when Liz was two.
He is Steve Hooker’s coach and trains his two daughters, Liz and Vicky, at home in Perth. Vicky Parnov, the older of the two sisters, is the reigning national pole vault champion but did not qualify for this year’s Olympics.
Her grandmother, Natalya Pechonkina, won bronze for Russia in the women’s 400 metres
Two weeks short of her 16th birthday, Parnov became Australia’s national pole vault champion. At the first world youth games she carried the flag for Australia and came home with a silver medal. Then just two weeks ago she won silver at the World Junior championships in Barcelona.
All of which seems to make the idea of achievement and progression appear a matter of growing up and it will happen. Even for those genetically and environmentally inclined to the sport, success is an elusive thing. A little over a month ago, before the world junior championships, she suffered a small tear to the muscle at the top of her take-off leg.
”That was really frightening for me and scary, considering I had my world junior championships in 21 days … and the Olympics of course,” she said.
An aggressive treatment plan followed and she was able to nurse the leg through the championships, doing as few jumps as possible. She still won silver. The Olympic Games were next. Suddenly everything felt better.
”So I am here and I am better and I am getting there,” she said. ”I think I was quite lucky to have the Olympics in front of me because it [the world junior championships] was like a stepping stone and a learning experience to the Olympics.
”It feels like if it [injury] happens [again] it happens. I am not beating myself up over it. If I didn’t go to the worlds I would definitely be more nervous now. I definitely want to make the final but making the final is probably going to need a PB so that would be the goal and once you are in a final anything could happen.”
by: Michael Gleeson