James Steyn echoes the sentiments of his fellow members of the elite pole-vaulting stable when he says how awesome it feels to train and compete at the EIT Institute of Sport and Health indoor facilities in Hastings.
"It's the first time I've ever jumped [indoor] without having to run through a door," says a grinning Steyn who has returned to Hawke's Bay for another 10-day haj under the tutelage of coach Jeremy McColl before they compete at the 21st edition of the annual Allan and Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic this Saturday.
The Aucklander is among a contingent of other elite pole vaulters who will compete at the multi-million dollar facility, on the grounds of the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Wednesday. The public can watch them through a gold-coin entry. The proceeds which will be donated to Cancer Society Hawke's Bay.
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"At our facility at home we have to start further [outside] from the door so it's great that it's fully contained here," says the 20-year-old who belongs to the North Harbour Bays Athletics Inc, akin to all his stable mates bar Imogen Ayris who hails from the Takapuna Amateur Athletic and Harrier Club.
While not wanting to peak just yet, the blokes will park the yardstick of 5.80m in the recesses of their mind in a bid to qualify automatically for the Tokyo Olympics in winter this year. The women have to scale 4.70m.
A circumspect Steyn says it'll take a good day to tame that height. It helps that they have the ideal variety of poles to aspire to achieve that goal.
"We've certainly been doing a lot of training but it'll be a big ask."
No doubt more competitions, on the foundation of some uncompromising training, will pave the way although improving his average with more 5.50m outcomes is imperative.
"Olympics isn't something that we have all targeted as an all-important competition this season," he explains. "More importantly, we're looking for consistency in the long term so, in the coming years, we want to have as high a base as we can for our top-five average in the new points system."
Steyn, of course, would love nothing more than to be in Tokyo for his maiden Olympics. He missed the mark by "a substantial" 35cm the last time to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
So what has changed for him this time?
"I've become quite a lot stronger, quite faster and the trainings I've been having with Jeremy in jumping has got a lot better so there's been a lot of technical improvement — hence the jump from 5 metres to 5.50 in one season."
Steyn is adamant he'll make the qualifying height this year or another although he remains optimistic about Tokyo, albeit with a dose of realism.
In his fourth and final year of marketing and economics double major at Auckland University, he finds the swotting an ideal stimulator to counter the demands of a hectic training regime.
However, if the intensity of studying rises sport will take precedence.
Into zone level high jumping as a youngster at school, Steyn gravitated towards pole vaulting when he spotted fellow athlete Nick Southgate defying gravity with a pole at the AUT Millennium in Auckland during training one day.
"It was a lot higher than high jumping so it was a little bit more exciting," he says of 21-year-old Southgate who holds the Kiwi indoor record of 5.20m and an outdoor PB of 5.47m.
In his first year at Rangitoto College, Steyn instantly fell in love with a code that Rio Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney made sexy in not just New Zealand but, arguably, in the Southern Hemisphere.
"You find yourself improving quite consistently," he explains. "In the first few years you can improve in something pretty much in every session."
It began as a mode of social engagement for Steyn but three years ago he had started to harbour a burning desire to take it to the higher echelons of the competitive arena.
He accepts it's a female domain in New Zealand and that can be a two-edged sword for the handful of blokes.
"The boys and I struggle a little bit because we don't have as many competitors but, in a way, it means we compete more closely with each other so that can be beneficial to us sometimes."
The EIT institute is a $16m facility that includes a hall which houses an athletics training arena, a specialised strength-and-conditioning centre, training courts for basketball, netball, volleyball and badminton. The hall roof has been built at a height that will accommodate pole-vault routines and Olympic-level rock climbing disciplines.
The Royston Community Fitness Centre, EIT sports science laboratory and a caféteria occupy the ground level spaces.
Teaching rooms are located upstairs and two conference rooms are available for hire. Sport organisations have the opportunities to acquire tenancies there.