New Zealand's best pole vaulters, including Olympic Bronze medallist Eliza McCartney, are competing against international stars at a special event outside Sky City Casino. Watch the Sky City Vertical Pursuit live below:

Auckland's Federal St is renowned for bars and cuisine but will add "athletics venue" to its CV today.

Eliza McCartney will contest the Sky City Vertical Pursuit, a pole vault event in which spectators surround the runway and mat to witness exponents levitate in the shadow of the Sky Tower.

The event is designed to bring the discipline closer to fans, who generally watch from at least a track width's gap at traditional athletics meets.


Similar operations take place annually at Jockgrim, Germany, and Manchester, England. The atrium at Auckland's Britomart hosted a meet last year.

McCartney will be joined by American Morgan Leleux, who competed in 2017, and Canadian Anicka Newell, who will contest the Commonwealth Games.

Olivia McTaggart, McCartney's Gold Coast-bound team-mate, will not feature on Federal St after spraining her ankle at this month's national championships. She is expected to recover in time for next month's Games.

"At these events, you relax more," Leleux said. "It's so nice to have fun and enjoy the sport rather than the pressure of having to get a medal."

"The atmosphere's more electric than on a track when you're more isolated," Newell said. "You have people yelling at you, there's loud music, and sometimes DJs ask to play your favourite song."

McCartney, the Rio Olympic bronze medallist, agreed the street scenario changes a competition's atmosphere.

"In a stadium, you're always quite a way from the crowd, and often not even that close to the track," she said.

"Having a crowd right around brings adrenaline by itself. Usually music is playing, lots of people are cheering and it brings out the best in everybody."

That is certainly the case in Jockgrim, where McTaggart claimed a tin of sausages last year after storming down the laneway to AC/DC's Thunderstruck in front of more than 2000 party-goers. She finished third to claim her share of the local delicacy.

"That is a hilarious comp," McCartney said, having competed there in 2016. "It's so German; everybody is sitting around drinking beer, smoking and eating sausages. I just love it. They put on such a great show. The crowd gets involved and have a great party afterwards, too.

"Those types of events are where athletics is heading, to keep sponsors in and crowds excited. You have to be innovative. Certainly having them close to the mat in pole vault is one way to do it."

McCartney acknowledged they are competing for the wider entertainment dollar in a time-precious environment.

"Essentially, we're entertainers, if you boil it down.

"We do it because we love it and people love to watch sport because of its unpredictability and cheering someone on.

"As long as that can be incorporated into it, and we keep finding ways to refresh by getting people from other areas involved, we can grow the sport."

McCartney hoped to take to the runway with something "upbeat and fiery" like Eminem on the speakers. She said she has overcome the worst of her Achilles tendon problems last year, and was set to head to the Gold Coast.

"It's been a super tough year. Thankfully I've been able to progress quicker and smoother than expected. I now know my Achilles well; I know what rarks it up and settles it down, so I'm able to stay on top of it."