Sixty seconds with: Eliza McCartney

Eliza McCartney, Athletics, pole vault.
Pole vault athlete Eliza McCartney. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Pole vault athlete Eliza McCartney. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Q: Last September, a cow impersonator vaulted a personal best of 3.10m at an exhibition in the Zurich train station. Where's the quirkiest place you've competed?

A: There was a cafe in Mission Bay, and a street comp a couple of years ago in Christchurch. Passers-by tend to stick around to see what's going on, which is good for the sport.

Q: Have you used a pole to negotiate a moat or fortress wall?

A: No, but canal jumping in Europe interests me. They use a run-up to jump on to a pole, then climb as high as they can and long jump off the end as it falls.

Q: You placed fifth at last month's world indoor championships and no New Zealand woman has soared higher than you at 4.80m. How have you found your sudden elevation, if you'll excuse the pun, into the country's top bracket of athletes?

A: It got hectic at first, but a few people are now helping manage everything, so we have time to do things away from training.

Q: Have sponsors come knocking?

A: A few parties have shown interest, but we're taking it step by step. There's no rush. It's an important year with the Olympics coming up, so we want to try to keep things as normal as possible.

Q: Do you see 2016 as an opportunity to anchor pole vault as your full-time career pursuit?

A: Yeah, pole vaulters can go into their early 30s, so I've got time on my side [McCartney is 19]. I'm enjoying it now but everything can go up or down at various points. From a public perspective, it's the beginning for me, but it's really only going well because I've been doing this for five years.

Q: Has your pursuit of a BSc in physiology taken a back seat?

A: I'm taking one paper this year, which makes it fairly low key. However, I'll be overseas a lot and would be worried about sitting exams. I should be able to do more in non-Olympic years.

Q: Please give us an example of coach Jeremy McColl's innovative approach?

A: He works on the basis that if you repeat the same exercise enough, you will probably get to a point where you are not improving. He's always finding new ways to do different parts of the vault. One example is the downhill run-up in training. If you're running down a hill, you pick up speed faster and can therefore use the sorts of poles which we'd use on the flat in competition. Theoretically, we don't get as tired because we're using less energy. That way, you can fit more jumps in. It was scary the first time I did it but all it means is that we are replicating the full run-up off a shorter distance.

Q: You work in a vaulting squad. Does that make you the Navy Seals of the track and field community?

A: We are a tight group - there's generally about six or seven of us - training three hours a day. There's a family vibe. A similar group exists in Christchurch and a few others are scattered around.

Q: Have you received any Diamond League invitations?

A: Yes, we're aiming to do Monaco in July, which will be an experience, so I've heard.

Q: Indeed. Say hello to Prince Albert for us.

- Herald on Sunday

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