Rio Olympics 2016: A Q&A with the Kiwi 'It Girl' Eliza McCartney

New Zealand's Eliza McCartney celebrates winning bronze at the pole volt. Photo /
New Zealand's Eliza McCartney celebrates winning bronze at the pole volt. Photo /

She's New Zealand's instant 'It Girl', after capturing the nation's heart at the Olympics.

And the Eliza McCartney phenomenon kept on rolling when the 19-year-old pole vaulter from Devonport took calls from the public on Newstalk ZB.

Host Tony Veitch said he could not remember another subject who had attracted so many calls, after the 45 minute session.

One middle aged male admirer sounded close to tears, and another said he felt more nervous talking to McCartney than when he endured watching close matches involving the All Blacks. Others talked of the emotion they felt watching the effervescent youngster take on the world in Rio, where she led the competition for a while.

The bronze medallist revealed she would continue to be based in New Zealand over the next few years. She was also delighted that the Rio result would mean increased support for her coach Jeremy McColl, whose presence at overseas competitions was vital to her success.

She still appeared overwhelmed by the response, which has included 25 to 30 commercial/endorsement offers in a country where many athletes struggle for backing.
With her trade mark laugh and humility very much in evidence, McCartney said: "I'm a little bit run down - I've exhausted myself.

"The response blows me away, how excited everybody is. The response from anybody in the street - it's just incredible.

"The list (of commercial offers) is one of the mind blowing things. It's been a whole new world since I got back."

McCartney told listeners that:

• She was surprised at how friendly the atmosphere was between the pole vault competitors at Rio, even in the final stage. "There is mutual respect - we all know how much work is put in."
• She explained technical aspects of pole vault. She had 11 poles at Rio, and vaulters usually work their way up the stiffness levels as the competition heats up.
• Her famously long hair might need a trim, but she does not need a drastic cut - the hair will not knock the bar off.
• The trend in pole vaulting is towards taller more athletic competitors such as herself because they were faster and could use bigger poles. Smaller vaulters - usually from gymnastics backgrounds - had some advantages in "body awareness".
• She writes notes in a book after each jump. "I've got a terrible memory - it's one of the things my coach and I have done to keep track of everything."

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