Coach on Eliza McCartney's sudden stardom: 'I think she's probably got no idea'

By David Leggat

Eliza McCartney celebrates winning bronze. Photo / Getty Images
Eliza McCartney celebrates winning bronze. Photo / Getty Images

Eliza McCartney's coach doubts the teenage pole vault sensation has any idea the impact her Olympic bronze medal has had on New Zealand.

McCartney's leap of 4.80m in Rio last weekend, catapulting her into the country's sporting consciousness and kick started a wave of popularity around her.

The North Shore athlete is on holiday with her family in northern Brazil, but her coach Jeremy McColl was at the welcome home for the New Zealand team in downtown Auckland on Tuesday morning and had his eyes opened.

"I had no idea," McColl said.

"When you're at the Olympics you're kind of in a bubble.

"A vision of Eliza came on (at the function) and all the kids went nuts. I think she's probably got no idea until she comes back in the country.

"We've been hearing things, but to see the excitement around her, and the pole vault, is really exciting for us."

McCartney matched her personal best in Rio and had a shot at 4.85m which would have kept her in the frame for a higher place on the dais. But McColl had high praise for a quality performance from McCartney, who has only ever had one coach, since she took up the sport at 14.

Eliza McCartney celebrates winning bronze. Photo / Getty Images
Eliza McCartney celebrates winning bronze. Photo / Getty Images

"She jumped really well. She was really confident.

"One thing we've tried to work on for the last year and a half is enjoying the process.

"She's always one to have a smile on her face when she's confident. That's something we've been working on, try and enjoy the competition, not let it get to you, embrace it, meet it head on."

A smile is never far from McCartney's face at the best of times, and McColl believes when the avalanche of interest hits her upon her return, she'll cope with it well.

"Luckily she has a good manager around her who'll be able to filter through requests. She's on holiday the next three weeks. She needs to sit back and relax and we'll go over her plans for the next year or two.

"I don't think it will affect her too much. The next few weeks might be a little crazy, but she'll get on with it, just be who she is, the chirpy girl we all know," McColl said.

He thinks it was not until the medal ceremony 24 hours after her event that the magnitude of McCartney's achievement struck her.

"I don't think she felt that straight away. She was more blown away by what she'd achieved in the competition.

"When it sunk in was when she had the medal around her neck. It was quite weird.

"She did a lot of her media stuff that night and the next day we went to the Kiwi club and out to Nike and she had nothing to show for it. That ceremony was when it really sunk in for her."

- NZ Herald

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