By Kris Shannon in Birmingham
Pole vaulter Imogen Ayris made a promise after her dad passed away. Two years later, she more than delivered by claiming a shock bronze at the Commonwealth Games.
Ayris earned New Zealand's first athletics medal in Birmingham tonight by edging compatriot and training partner Olivia McTaggart for a place on the podium in the women's pole vault final.
More importantly, the 21-year-old said, she achieved that feat in front of a host of family at Alexander Stadium, fulfilling a vow she made two years ago.
"It's so special," Ayris said. "After my dad passed, I promised that I would just make him proud, and I feel like I've done more than that today.
"My dad's brother and sister were here today, and my dad's aunty and all of his family was here. So to have everyone here is so special."
Ayris' special night would have been predicted by few fans. Kiwi hopes seemed to rest with McTaggart heading into the final, and those hopes were enhanced when Olympic bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw was ruled out after suffering an injury while warming up.
That left eight competitors in the event and opened the door for either McTaggart or Ayris to vault their way into medal contention.
The Kiwis' chances further improved when defending champion Alysha Newman also pulled out through injury early in the competition, leaving five athletes fighting over three medals.
Once Anicka Newell failed to clear the bar at 4.45m, New Zealand were guaranteed a medal of some colour, with McTaggart's personal best of 4.65m - compared to Ayris' 4.50m - making her the likelier option.
But when McTaggart was unable to clear 4.50m, the bronze belonged to Ayris on a countback, rendering her last attempt at that height more of a celebration.
"My mind's pretty blank right now," she said. "It just doesn't feel real. I wasn't really going to get over that last height once I knew I had bronze. I really tried to get up there, but I was over the moon."
Australia's Nina Kennedy eventually took gold by clearing a height of 4.60m, followed by England's Molly Caudery, also at 4.45m.
Kennedy was the bronze medallist at last month's world championships in Oregon, where Ayris couldn't clear 4.20m in qualification, adding to the unlikely nature of her effort in Birmingham. But for the Kiwi, there was one simple difference.
"Confidence," she said. "I approached the comps very differently, and it worked. It paid off.
"I was so confident out there, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I had a great two weeks of training so I knew I was capable of it."
Ayris did express mixed emotions at the best moment of her career coming at the expense of McTaggart, who reached the final in Oregon but failed to record a height.
"It's hard when it comes down to a teammate missing a height, and Olivia jumped so well today," Ayris said. "But you can't ignore the fact that you've just snuck in there for a medal, so it was awesome."
Adding to her amazement was the fact she came into her debut Games with a broken hand, an old gymnastics injury discovered earlier this year.
"My hand is actually broken - the bone is in half and I'm going to need surgery at some point," she said. "It's my super power - I've got two bones in my hand."