Eliza McCartney is planning for another decade as a top pole vault exponent – despite the awful injury run that has derailed her career in recent years.
She's confident that the genetic auto immune condition – which causes her tendon inflammation – can be managed, if not mastered.
The 23-year-old is also optimistic about her reshaped training regime, and an innovative new tool that allows unprecedented collection of training data.
Four years ago McCartney was responsible for one of the most memorable episodes in New Zealand Olympic history, with her remarkable bronze medal.
Since that magical night in Rio brief highs have been interspersed with significant lows, as she has battled constant Achilles tendon problems and hamstring issues.
The nadir saw her unable to jump properly – clearing the bar – for the best part of a year.
Talking to the Herald , McCartney admits, amidst all the pain and uncertainty, it has crossed her mind to give the sport away.
But those thoughts "never last too long" and she is dedicated to returning to the top.
"I've planned that I am going to be an athlete, I've committed to that and I'm not just going to let that go," McCartney tells the Herald . "Although I've been tried very hard on that decision, that's the decision I've made and I am committed to it.
"I've potentially got another 10 years, looking at other track and field athletes. That's a lot of time to work out how to best manage things. If I was a bit older maybe you would think about throwing in the towel but I don't want to give up on it yet."
McCartney trained well during lockdown – "amazingly I came out better" – and in June enjoyed the psychological milestone of clearing the bar for the first time in ten months, during the Athletics New Zealand winter camp in the Hawkes Bay.
"There were some really good gains," says McCartney, "I was a normal athlete again, able to train really hard."
But then, another setback.
"There was a flare up of Achilles symptoms just following that," says McCartney, of the July setback. "It didn't wipe me out but it's good just to be super careful, stepping back a bit so it doesn't get worse. I'm back on track now."
McCartney's Achilles tendon issues go back to June 2016.
"It was really bizarre," said McCartney. "I've never had Achilles pain before and it came on two weeks before the Olympics, quite strong."
In Rio each warm-up was painful, though she couldn't feel it during the competition.
"It's been every year since," says McCartney. "Some years not bad at all. Other years I've been wiped out."
She lost about three months in 2017, while 2018 saw two new personal bests but also a disappointing Commonwealth Games bronze. The 2019 year was a non-event, also costing an appearance at the World Championships.
"When I was younger, I could train really hard and I never got injured," says McCartney. "It does get to the point – especially when you are wiped out for a long time – you can't help but have those negative thoughts.
"Can I even do this anymore? Can my body get used to doing this?
"It's been an adjustment, but it's been inspiring to see other athletes that deal with recurrent injuries or health issues and are able to still achieve."
Achilles issues aren't uncommon among pole vaulters but McCartney's have been accentuated by her genetic disorder.
"There will be micro traumas over time and that manifests in my immune system attacking it a little bit more, inflating it and making it a much bigger problem than it needs to be," explains McCartney. "I was probably always going to get Achilles problems but this makes it a lot worse."
McCartney is adapting and her new monthly medications have been effective.
She's also hopeful data from an inventive new training tool can help. Developed by an Australian company, I Measure U ankle sensors record the load going through the lower legs and allow sessions to be tailored.
"It's been great and my team is quite excited by it," says McCartney. "We will be able to get data from all my training and build a better picture."
The biggest adjustment has been refining her schedule. She still trains six days a week, but the intensity is carefully managed.
"It's not something I thought I would have to do at 23, it's normally at the end of someone's career," says McCartney. "It will be a bit of a process, not something I will be able to nail overnight."
McCartney plans to compete again in December, utilising the time before that as a base training bloc, an opportunity she hasn't had since 2014.
She also busy with her studies (in environmental science) and her ambassador work with several charities, including Trees That Count and RE: Mobile.
Spare time will often find her in the garden ("I'm trying to raise some seeds into trees") and McCartney can also be spotted around Devonport, helping out with local restoration projects.
But her sporting pursuits remain front and centre.
The next target will be achieving the qualifying standard (4.70m) required for the Tokyo Olympics.
"If I can get myself back and competing, it shouldn't be something I have to worry about."
Beyond that, it's about reclaiming her place in the top echelon.
"I have changed a lot since Rio," says McCartney. "I was aware at the time there was a lot of naivety. It was my first year competing as a senior [so] it was a quite accelerated pathway into it. I was young, I didn't have any expectations.
"I've matured a lot and got used to competing with the top dogs. I've been able to achieve a lot despite injury and my personal best (4.94m) is so much better.
'I'm optimistic, I have to be confident. I've got my career path and a great team behind me. Hopefully I can jump much higher than I have jumped before. You need to believe it."