Pushy parents are frowned on when it comes to sport but Wilma Murto is the first to state she would never have scaled the giddy heights of the Rio Olympics had it not been for a shove from her mother.

"My mum forced me into it," said a grinning Murto before jostling in a pole vaulting field in Hastings today in the hope that the likes of New Zealand Olympian Eliza McCartney and fellow Aucklander Olivia McTaggart will propel her towards a personal best of 4.71m she set in a bronze medal effort at the 2016 Junior World Championship in Eugene, Oregon, in the United States.

The 20-year-old from Finland is here with compatriot Tomas Wecksten, 22, also fromLahti, to compete at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in a build up to the annual Allan and Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic meeting on Saturday.

Competition starts at 5pm today. Imogen Ayris will be the other Kiwi highflier joining Marta Onofre, of Portugal, and Chloe Henry, of Belgium.


Nick Southgate, James Steyn and Ettiene Du Preez, as well as Diogo Ferrira, of Portugal, will give Wecksten a yardstick to work on.

"She thought I'd be good at it and I'd like it," Murto said of her mother, Sari, who also had designs on becoming a pole-vaulting mentor.

The daughter didn't gravitate towards it at first because it was difficult, but slowly it grew on her.

"After that, every other event started getting boring so to go from 100m to pole vault, it's hard to go back to sprinting 100m."

Wilma Murto said the "extreme element" to pole vaulting made the discipline more sexy than other athletics events.

"When I drive forward, I feel like a super hero so it's more than just athletics," said the pole vaulter who has secured sponsorship from Red Bull and Nike.

Murto is fresh from two meetings in Perth where she finished first and second in a bid to qualify for the European Championship.

However, a PB isn't the overriding factor for the multiple junior world and European Championship competitor who is on a short (14 steps) approach in the desire to be humming at 18 steps when she returns to the European circuit again.


She said Rio bronze medallist McCartney and McTaggart would provide the ideal preparation for her.

Tomas Wecksten and Wilma Murto will add zest to the pole vaulting in Hastings today. Photo / Paul Taylor
Tomas Wecksten and Wilma Murto will add zest to the pole vaulting in Hastings today. Photo / Paul Taylor

The Finnish pair, who England-born, Lahti-based Steve Rippon coaches, are escaping the -10C to -20C climes of their country to embrace the balmy weather of the southern hemisphere but are keeping their fingers crossed wicked westerlies won't kick in.

Growing up in small-town Lahti, there was little in terms of entertainment so she was ushered into athletics at 3.

"I kind of made the national [age-group] team as a 100m sprinter but I started pole vaulting when I was 9," she said, revealing the hour-long car trip was perhaps the bigger deterrent as a youngster going to train.

The thrill of hitting the landing pad after clearing the bar is the ultimate although she feels the Finnish people can learn from the Kiwis on how to celebrate.

Wecksten loves the balmy Bay is also trying to improve on his PB of 5.55m in a bid to make the 5.65m cull for the European Championship.

"I just need to get it right on the right day," said the man who has compulsorily served in the Finland army and was 2016 and 2017 senior men's national champion before losing his perch to Urho Kujanpaa last year.

A multiple European and junior world championship rep, Wecksten stumbled into pole vaulting, "as a little bit of a joke".

"I was 11 and I started jumping in the backyard with a little wooden pole and cleared 2m on the grass," he said, revealing he took after his father, Mikko, a businessman, in Greco Roman wrestling as well as ice hockey.