Kiwi pole vaulter Eliza McCartney has opened up about her "really tough year" after a string of injuries that has stopped her from competing.
The Olympic bronze medallist revealed on social media that she may suffer from a genetic disorder that has impacted her career over the years and caused a persistent Achilles injury in the last two months.
"After pulling out of World Champs I was back to injury free training for the first time since August 2018," McCartney wrote in a lengthy post on Instagram. "But that ended abruptly one vault session when I got a sudden, intense pain in my Achilles.
"We've only just come across a potential cause, which possibly has been present in some or all of the injuries I've had in the past 3 years. We think I might have a genetic disorder that causes autoimmune inflammation, particularly affecting tendons."
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Speaking to Radio Sport after the revelation, McCartney said she's now on medication and feels "so much better".
"What we think is happening is I have a genetic disorder that causes autoimmune inflammation, which sounds awful but the good news is that it's got very effective medication," McCartney said.
"If this is what's going on, I've already started medication and it should just get me back to being a normal person and a normal athlete who doesn't get these strange injuries all the time.
"I've already felt so much better. I'm back to being my happy self again and my Achilles is not nearly as sore as it had been. It's definitely looking up from now."
The 22-year-old admitted that her year of injuries has taken a toll on her not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally.
"It's been a really tough year because I've never gotten a break from it. I've just constantly been knocked down every time I've gotten back up again. Particularly with my Achilles in the last two weeks, I kept getting knocked down before I even took my first step usually.
"It's been really tough and just mentally I'm sure as most people can imagine, the thing that you define yourself as in your job and everything that pole vaulting is for me, when that's taken away from you it's a really difficult position to be in because your kind of purpose is gone.
"And it's a really tough thing to deal with. It's not been easy at all. It's been incredibly tough but we've had such an amazing support team around me. My team from HPSNZ (High Performance Sport New Zealand) but also my family and my friends, they've all just been incredibly supportive. So I've never not felt supported this year. I've been very lucky."
McCartney says her return to competing is going to be a slow process, but her ultimate goal is to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in July.
"I haven't been able to pole vault. I haven't been able to run either. I've just been completely stripped back to doing upper body weight basically. I've always been training, I've never stopped but I've been severely limited. Unfortunately it hasn't been just these two months, it's been the whole year of severely limited training.
"The way that we think we're going to tackle it is not to come out and rush it and try and get out too early. Because the way it stands at the moment, if we just take it easy and make sure that I'm hitting each step and not rushing through the process.
"By the time I come out and do full pole vaulting again, I've still got a number of months before Tokyo so there's still ample time to be competing and to qualify and get competition fit again prior to Tokyo. I don't want to upset that at all. So I won't be coming out early just to try and qualify. We're just going to take it really easy."
McCartney will have to clear a 4.70m height next year to qualify for the Tokyo Games. (Her outdoor personal best is 4.94m.)