A trademark smile, deep breath, and off she went.

But Eliza McCartney's latest meet was different.

After what has felt like an eternity, the Olympic bronze medalist has finally returned to competition.

The 22-year-old has barely competed this year due to an ongoing hamstring issue. It wasn't a serious injury. In fact, time after time, her coach Jeremy McColl, or Athletics New Zealand staff would say McCartney could compete if she had to. And now she has.


It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was well below her best. But McCartney's finally breathed a sigh of relief.

"All I wanted to do was get out there and enjoy the feeling being out there," she said after the Paris Diamond League event. "Just the feeling of a big crowd and being out there with the same girls I'm always competing with. And hey, I'm jumping and loving it."

And that's what she did. Just competed. McCartney failing to get over the first mark of 4.25 metres.

But she isn't panicking. "It was unfortunate with the no height, but in the end, I was off the ground, in the air and I have no pain anywhere, which hasn't happened for probably a year."

The fact the result doesn't really matter shows how big it is for McCartney to be back vaulting. "It's one of those things where a no-height is never a great thing. But I'm just super rusty and it's going to take some time to get back into it. It's just good I can start [competing again] ahead of the world championships and not have that as my first competition."

That in itself is a mental win. Imagine having to line up in the heat of Doha, having not competed for months. That's now not a concern for McCartney, with there still a month until the world champs.

She now has time on her side, something that hasn't really been possible this year. That time, will allow McCartney to utilise the rust remover.

"It actually felt a little foreign trying to jump," she laughs, "that's how little jumping I've done. So I just have to keep training and thankfully I can, because I'm now in a place of being pain free."


However, McCartney's realistic about her schedule over the next few weeks. She isn't going to suddenly start signing up for every possible meet.

"I have the Zurich train station meet in a few days, and that might be the last one I do before the world champs," she concedes. "There will be the odd competition around Europe but they'll be quite small, so almost just like a training session. There's also the reason that I'm not in shape in terms of physically jumping.