World Athletics Championships 2015: Alana Boyd, Nina Kennedy the next generation

She only held it for a time, but she held it nonetheless. When Nina Kennedy jumped 4.59 metres in Perth in February no other girl in the world had ever jumped higher.

She set the new world junior outdoor record. Soon after, a Venezuelan jumped one centimetre higher, but Kennedy had already literally and figuratively set the bar higher not only for herself but the rest of the world.

If there is pessimism about Australia’s medal chances in Beijing, there is optimism too in the generation emerging.

Nothing sums up the transition of Australian athletics like Kennedy and Alana Boyd.

Boyd, the four-time national champion and record holder is in her last world championships, Kennedy the 18-year-old prodigy her first.

Kennedy is the youngest member of the Australian team, Boyd one of the oldest. Kennedy is the youngest in the entire women’s pole vault field.

In Boyd’s last world champs she knows time is running out to hit that career goal. For Kennedy that time is ahead of her.

When Beijing hosted the Olympics it was Boyd’s first games. Kennedy, then just 11, has fuzzy memories mainly of Steve Hooker winning.

Kennedy had just started pole vaulting and was training with Hooker’s group, so suddenly becoming the best in the world seemed achievable for a girl from Perth.

She pinches herself now to find that she is here in China about to compete in the same stadium.

“I went to the track and got a really good vibe so the excitement is kicking in now,” she said.

“I think once I get out there that is when it will hit me oh my god I am at a World Championships.”

Imparting advice, Boyd speaks in a way her young successor can understand. She breaks it down to simple terms: when it comes down to it unlike other Athletic events pole vaulting is fun, so go out and make it fun.

“In any event you can say ‘enjoy the competition’ but particularly with pole vault it is actually a fun event, when you can get it right that feeling of soaring over the bar is pretty cool, so my advice would be to lap it up and go out there and do what you know how to do and use it as experience,” Boyd said.

There is unfinished business for Boyd here in Beijing.

“My best international finish outside of the Commonwealth Games was 11th in London [Olympics] so I would like to think I could finish up the ranks a bit from 11th. I would like to finish top eight, so that is the goal going into the championships,” she said.

“The Birds Nest was my first Olympics … unfortunately I didn’t make the final that year, but for me going back and competing at the Birds Nest stadium will be amazing, I just can’t wait to get out there.

“This will be my third world championships. Last time in Daegu I missed the final but jumped the same as 12th but missed out. I finished 13th, so I definitely have some unfinished business.”

Boyd began the year jumping well, then fell into a bit of a hole. She decided to abandon competition and return to training and just get as many jumps in as possible without the stress of competition. Now she feels ready to jump.

“If you had asked me three weeks ago … actually I probably would have lied to you,” she laughed. “But I am not lying now, I feel like I am actually ready to go into these championships. Nervous, excited, ready.”


Nina Kennedy

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