Not everyone can claim to have won a tin of sausages pole vaulting in Jockgrim, Germany… but it makes for a cracking work story.

Olivia McTaggart reaped that reward last year as she strode down the laneway to AC/DC's Thunderstruck in front of more than 2000 partying Germans.

She finished third to claim her share of the local delicacy.

This year her tastes might be more metallic, like a gold, silver or bronze medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.


The 18-year-old will join Millennium Institute training partners Eliza McCartney and Nick Southgate as part of New Zealand's pole vaulting contingent. Each will compete at the event for the first time.

She now has a personal best of 4.40m as she shadows McCartney through the ranks.

The trio are coached by Jeremy McColl, the guru transforming the discipline into a world-class operation in this country.

The talent he has unveiled mirrors the likes of middle-distance running in the 1960s, canoeing in the 1980s and rowing since the early 2000s.

McTaggart will be joined at the Games by her 20-year-old brother Cameron. He will compete in the 77kg weightlifting class. Both siblings were born on the Gold Coast.

"It's been quite a long time waiting," she says.

"I was recently looking through my training diaries from when I was 13. I wrote that I wanted to represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games.

"That was when I was a gymnast before I transferred to pole vault [at age 14]."

McTaggart made the move after suffering back problems, but believes there are similarities.

"Pole vault has the same spatial and body awareness going upside down. You can't be scared. I've been a thrill-seeker all my life, going bungy jumping etc. It made for an easy transition.

"But Jeremy's an amazing coach. To have three athletes going to a Commonwealth Games is such a feat. He should be proud of us, and we're proud of him."

McCartney is returning to action after suffering Achilles tendon problems last year.

The Olympic bronze medallist said the injury is under control.

The 21-year-old stunned a crowd at Hawke's Bay last week by threatening her national record of 4.82m off a 10 rather than customary 16-pace run-up at the annual Allan and Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic.

McCartney snapped her first pole in the warm-ups, then cleared 4.70m before attempting 4.83m.

"I never expected that to happen. It was one of the best competitions of my life. I only decided to compete about 48 hours out, so to attempt a new PB was outstanding."

McCartney has the added goals of competing at the world indoor championships in Birmingham from March 2-4, before embarking on the Diamond League season.

"The biggest thing will be around travel and recovery, making sure I stay healthy because it's quite an unusual circumstance with another major championship a month later."

Five-time national champion Nick Southgate completes the trio.

"I'm the oldest - I've been slugging away in the background, getting through the age groups," he quipped.

"I started out as a gymnast and did that for eight or so years when Jeremy was my coach, so I've known him a long time. I followed him into pole vaulting and never looked back.

"Today's selection is a testament to how good he is as a coach. He's so committed to us, and his eye for the technical is amazing."

The 23-year-old has a personal best of 5.47m, having broken six poles as a rite of passage.

"That's something that goes with the sport. You've got to take stock and put it out of your head. A couple of times I've been injured quite badly and couldn't compete any more, but the past two times I've carried on."

Auckland fans are likely to witness the trio in action on March 18 along Federal St when they participate in a vertical pursuit competition.

NZ team

NZ Commonwealth Games athletics team: Valerie Adams (conditional) shot put, Alana Barber 20km race walk, Camille Buscomb 10,000m, Cameron French 400m hurdles, Marshall Hall (conditional) discus, Ben Langton Burnell javelin, Eliza McCartney pole vault, Olivia McTaggart pole vault, Brad Mathas 800m, Angie Petty 800m, Julia Ratcliffe (conditional) hammer, Quentin Rew 20km race walk, Nick Southgate pole vault, Tom Walsh shot put, Nick Willis 1500m.

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