It's been a "pretty wild ride" since she swapped gymnastics for pole vaulting just five short years ago – but Olivia McTaggart wouldn't have it any other way.

She is, after all, well on track to fulfilling a lifelong dream – representing her country at the Olympic Games.

The 19-year-old national champion has endured a frustrating season, needing surgery on the wrist she fractured during the Auckland Vertical Pursuit in April – an injury that forced her out of the World Championships in Qatar in September.

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Thanks to hard work and the support of teammate Eliza McCartney and the ANZ Olympic Pathway Programme, McTaggart is confident of making it to Tokyo next year.

McTaggart switched from gymnastics to pole vaulting following a back injury in 2014 and since the switch, she has already managed to win the national title (with a best effort of 4.46m in March) and booked her place along with McCartney at last year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

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"I started from a gymnastics background and that meant the transition was a little easier than [it would have been with] other sports. From there it's just been a pretty wild ride but really exciting," McTaggart said.

"Pole vaulting is just such technical sport, that every day I'm learning something new."

McCartney, the Olympic bronze medallist in 2016, has been a significant influence on McTaggart's fledgling career.

"A lot of what I have today wouldn't have been if it wasn't for Eliza, I've definitely learnt so much from her. The biggest thing was the Commonwealth Games. I had never competed at such a big event and in such a big stadium but both of us going together meant it wasn't quite as overwhelming – I had some 'home' I could take over," McTaggart said.

"Having her there teaching me some of the little things about competing at such a big event helped a lot."

Olivia McTaggart competed at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year. Photo / Photosport
Olivia McTaggart competed at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year. Photo / Photosport

The support from the ANZ Olympic Pathway Programme has been a timely boost on her quest for Olympic success.


"The support from ANZ means a lot to me because it means I can be a full-time athlete and I don't have to work [but] the coolest part of the sponsorship is that it isn't just financial.

"They have all these pathways that help us athletes get to the Games but also produce a future career in whatever sport you choose. It's really exciting for young athletes to have that support.

"I'm doing what I love and having this support allows me to focus on what I love doing.

"I'm very goal-dominated. Having that focus on the big goal. I do it because I love it, because I love being upside down."

Her biggest goal is securing her seat on that plane to Japan.

"That's my big goal but getting there means fixing my technical improvements, getting more powerful, getting my speed up…so it's having small goals along the way, to get to that big one," McTaggart said.

"Getting to Tokyo would mean that five-year-old me would be so proud of me. I started off wanting to go to the Olympics in gymnastics and now it's transitioned (to pole vaulting).

"Getting there would be a dream come true, it would mean all the hard work has paid off."