Pole vault star Eliza McCartney thinks ‘dark days’ are behind her in career reset

When Kiwi pole vaulter Eliza McCartney limped and fought her way through a series of errors in her final attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics last year, the feeling she was in pain” of a slow death” in his sport crossed his mind.

Those were the dark days – the final stages of a four-year period when the 25-year-old former golden girl of New Zealand Athletics battled injury after injury, setback after setback, as she struggled in vain to resume his career. on track.

She was an athlete, remember, who became the darling of her nation when she won a shock Olympic bronze medal in the pole vault as a teenager in Rio in 2016, then in 2018 set records nationals of 4.92 meters, then 4.94. m, during an exhilarating month in Germany, leaving her to declare that the magic 5-meter mark was now within reach.

Eliza McCartney thanks her supporters after her last chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics failed.

Alisha Lovrich / Athletics NZ

Eliza McCartney thanks her supporters after her last chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics failed.

McCartney now admits that was probably the last time she felt fully functional as an athlete, although she revealed in a series of open-book media interviews on Thursday that she now had as many hope she had been during this time that she had turned a corner, and can get back to something resembling her best form.

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McCartney opened up about what she considers a career and physical reset under the watchful guise of trainer Matt Dallow who oversaw a biomechanical makeover and taught the 25-year-old to walk and to run again.

The effervescent Aucklander was hopeful as she detailed the complex work Dallow went through to reset her biomechanics and bring her back to competition without pain or injury. In doing so, she has rebuilt her support team (adding a new physio and mental skills expert), changed her training location, and established a schedule that should see her return to jumping in August and compete in December so that she is trying to make it to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. .

But she also revealed how difficult it had been to endure the Achilles tendon and hamstring injuries that had held back her career from late 2018 until now. During the trio of last-ditch attempts to qualify for Tokyo last June, he was sad to see McCartney unable to get close to the required 4.70m and then struggle to hold back tears as reality hit home.

It's been four long years since Eliza McCartney last felt injury free as a pole vaulter.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It’s been four long years since Eliza McCartney last felt injury free as a pole vaulter.

“Amazingly, even though the thoughts crossed my mind, I never thought ‘I’m done’ because the way I didn’t qualify for Tokyo last year would have been a really awful place to be. finish,” McCartney said. Thing Thursday from his training ground west of Auckland. “I would have been left with regret and feeling like I had a slow death in the sport.

“If these next two years don’t work out, the difference is I put it all in. I’m committed to it. I know there’s a chance it won’t go the way we want it to, and I have accepted this because I know that nothing is left to chance, from nutrition to psychology to physical training, everything has been reviewed and changed where necessary.

“I’m taking the last chance I have and giving it my all, and it’s a different feeling to put things back together and try really hard to get to an Olympics when you’re in pain, you’re injured. and we couldn’t train.”

McCartney learned to accept his physical flaws. She had to.

“As a teenager you could get thrown at anything and bounce back quickly…but things changed for me and got progressively worse. So to the oldest I’ve been in the sport, reversing that and running some of my fastest track times ever, not being in pain, recovering quickly and feeling good about what I’m doing is really quite amazing feeling. It hits you – I miss feeling like I’m good at something, that’s what I’m supposed to do.

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The Kiwi aerialist said she had to change a lot of her training and lifestyle to finally overcome the injuries that have plagued her for the past few years.

McCartney credits his support team with instilling the belief in giving this remake a chance – “When we had team meetings, I was the least positive, but everyone exuded that confidence” – and Dallow for having the patience to break down each move into something more effective, less damaging.

Now the clock is ticking. “To try to surpass my motor habits, to change the way I move and to have enough time to get rid of my chronic injuries, the time we have before Paris is actually not a lot. That’s why this year was so important to get away from international competition… nobody was too sure at first if changing the biomechanics would solve enough problems, but it turns out it can.

And now? With so much still to do? To prove?

“You doubt yourself a lot and I’ve often wondered ‘why am I still going?’ I think it’s because I had incredible support My sponsors, Nike, Blueberries NZ, Hyundai NZ, they made me feel worth it because I have their support. the same with my team… all this confidence is gaining you… you’re starting to think it’s possible.

“We agreed it might not work, but there was enough evidence to say it might work, so we’re going to throw it all in there, and I can wholeheartedly say I haven’t regretted anything because I gave him one last shot.”