Kiwi pole vaulter Eliza McCartney plans to take some time away from the sport after missing the mark for Olympic qualification, but has quickly quashed suggestions that she might leave the sport for good.
McCartney came up short in her final chance to make the qualification mark of 4.70m on Saturday, bowing out at 4.50m.
The weekend's event in Auckland was the last of three competitions in which McCartney could have reached the qualification mark, and admitted it was tough to know that the book was officially closed for her on Tokyo.
"It is pretty gutting. Even though these last three competitions that we had were a long shot anyway, when it's over, it's over and that's a little bit gutting," McCartney said.
Since claiming bronze at the Olympic Games in 2016, McCartney has been stifled by Achilles and hamstring injuries. Two years ago, she discovered she had a genetic autoimmune disorder leading to tendon inflammation, which has meant simply sprinting down the runway to launch has been a challenge.
"I've had little periods with little glimpses of it looking like it might work, but I pretty quickly am too sore all over again to be able to do much about it.
"I just need to take some time to reflect on it really and just walk away for a little bit; just take a break for a wee while and come back with more of a clear head, I guess.
"I've had a couple of years of this now, so I'm fairly used to it."
She and fellow Olympic hopeful Olivia McTaggart both failed to clear the 4.50m mark, but like McCartney, McTaggart is on her own comeback from injury – having to undergo surgery after breaking her wrist when her pole snapped in 2019.
McCartney said it was frustrating to bow out at the 4.50m mark this weekend because it's a mark she knows she is capable of clearing, even with her body not at 100 per cent.
"It was just a battle every time running down the runway, and it just means that my running mechanics were off and my take-offs were off, so it is quite hard to be able to get anything out of it.
"It was really difficult on the ground, which makes it really hard in the air to make up for what's not going so well.
"I'm going to be taking a pretty decent break because right now everything's flared up, so there's not much point trying to train when it's like this. But I also just need to walk away mentally for a while because it's just been really hard this last six months to keep picking myself up every time I get kicked back down again. It's taken quite a toll emotionally, so it will be nice to just step away for a while.
While she has been unable to compete to her optimum level in several years, the 24-year-old said she had no intentional of putting the pole away for good just yet, with hopes of a return in 2022 after taking some time away.
"Next year's a really big year for us with World Indoor Champs, World Outdoor Champs and the Commonwealth Games. I don't think there's ever really been three majors in a year for athletics so it's a really huge year and it would really mean a lot to me to be out jumping well next year and to be at those competitions.
"I'll be back. I'm too young and I've got unfinished business, there's no way I could just leave it like this. I have to give it another go."