Kiwi pole vaulter Eliza McCartney has opened up about her "really tough year" after a string of injuries that has stopped her from competing.

The Olympic bronze medallist revealed on social media that she may suffer from a genetic disorder that has impacted her career over the years and caused a persistent Achilles injury in the last two months.

"After pulling out of World Champs I was back to injury free training for the first time since August 2018," McCartney wrote in a lengthy post on Instagram. "But that ended abruptly one vault session when I got a sudden, intense pain in my Achilles.

"We've only just come across a potential cause, which possibly has been present in some or all of the injuries I've had in the past 3 years. We think I might have a genetic disorder that causes autoimmune inflammation, particularly affecting tendons."

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Speaking to Radio Sport after the revelation, McCartney said she's now on medication and feels "so much better".

"What we think is happening is I have a genetic disorder that causes autoimmune inflammation, which sounds awful but the good news is that it's got very effective medication," McCartney said.

"If this is what's going on, I've already started medication and it should just get me back to being a normal person and a normal athlete who doesn't get these strange injuries all the time.

"I've already felt so much better. I'm back to being my happy self again and my Achilles is not nearly as sore as it had been. It's definitely looking up from now."

Eliza McCartney. Photo / Photosport
Eliza McCartney. Photo / Photosport

The 22-year-old admitted that her year of injuries has taken a toll on her not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

"It's been a really tough year because I've never gotten a break from it. I've just constantly been knocked down every time I've gotten back up again. Particularly with my Achilles in the last two weeks, I kept getting knocked down before I even took my first step usually.

"It's been really tough and just mentally I'm sure as most people can imagine, the thing that you define yourself as in your job and everything that pole vaulting is for me, when that's taken away from you it's a really difficult position to be in because your kind of purpose is gone.

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"And it's a really tough thing to deal with. It's not been easy at all. It's been incredibly tough but we've had such an amazing support team around me. My team from HPSNZ (High Performance Sport New Zealand) but also my family and my friends, they've all just been incredibly supportive. So I've never not felt supported this year. I've been very lucky."

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McCartney says her return to competing is going to be a slow process, but her ultimate goal is to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in July.

"I haven't been able to pole vault. I haven't been able to run either. I've just been completely stripped back to doing upper body weight basically. I've always been training, I've never stopped but I've been severely limited. Unfortunately it hasn't been just these two months, it's been the whole year of severely limited training.

"The way that we think we're going to tackle it is not to come out and rush it and try and get out too early. Because the way it stands at the moment, if we just take it easy and make sure that I'm hitting each step and not rushing through the process.

"By the time I come out and do full pole vaulting again, I've still got a number of months before Tokyo so there's still ample time to be competing and to qualify and get competition fit again prior to Tokyo. I don't want to upset that at all. So I won't be coming out early just to try and qualify. We're just going to take it really easy."

McCartney will have to clear a 4.70m height next year to qualify for the Tokyo Games. (Her outdoor personal best is 4.94m.)

View this post on Instagram

My amazing followers, it’s time I share what’s been happening in the last 2 months. I’ve been a little quiet on social media and some of you have been asking why I’m not posting about my training and vaulting. I hope after reading this you can appreciate that I haven’t been in the right space to share this until now, but here goes. ▪️After pulling out of World Champs I was back to injury free training for the first time since August 2018. But that ended abruptly one vault session when I got a sudden, intense pain in my Achilles. I was hoping it would just be a short flare of my reoccurring tendinitis, but instead of improving, my Achilles completely deteriorated. Numerous scans, in and out of a moon boot, not able to walk, some days unable to even put any weight through that foot, and all the while being completely unclear on why I had such an atypical Achilles tendinitis. That was now 8.5 weeks ago, and we’ve only just come across a potential cause, which possibly has been present in some or all of the injuries I’ve had in the past 3 years. We think I might have a genetic disorder that causes autoimmune inflammation, particularly affecting tendons. Essentially this means over time microtrauma causes my immune system to go into overdrive and set off an inflammatory process in the affected area. ▪️I’ve been continually challenged this year, and at times it’s been difficult to cope, but the GOOD NEWS is I’ve started the medication for this condition and I’m finally feeling my positive self again. I might not be ready to compete over the New Zealand summer, but all going well I’ll be fit to qualify and build into Tokyo. It’s going to be far from the ideal build up to an Olympics but after a year off I’m bloody ready for the challenge. There is a lot more I want to share but that’s more than enough for one post. ▪️Please ask ANY QUESTIONS, I want to share my road to Tokyo with you all. Also, thank you all for sticking with me through these tough times, and a big thank you to my team and everyone else who has kept me afloat each time I’ve started to sink

A post shared by Eliza McCartney (@eliza_mac_) on