Above: Eliza McCartney - Olympic pole vault bronze medallist. Photo by Leon Neal AFP/Getty Images.
Eliza McCartney’s meteoric swift and spectacular rise in status in the pole vault reached new heights with a bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games.
The personable 19 year old was calm and collected throughout the competition, clearing her first attempt at 4.50m, 4.60m, 4.70m and 4.80m while some of the top vaulters on the world stage bowed out.
London Olympic Games gold medallist Jennifer Suhr of America failed at 4.70m and world champion in Beijing last year Yarisley Silva of Cuba also couldn’t clear 4.70m.
McCartney was in gold medal position for much of the competition with her first attempt clearances, until Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece and Sandi Morris of USA were both over 4.85m on their second attempts. McCartney failed her three attempts, although the first was very close and would have won her the gold.
The gold went to Stefanidi, the European champion and 2005 World Youth champion who had fewer failures than silver medallist Morris, the World Indoor Championships silver medallist.
Little did anyone realise when McCartney won the New Zealand title in Dunedin in March in a New Zealand record of 4.80m that it would also be the height that would win her a bronze medal at the Olympics.
McCartney has risen up through the ranks from taking the bronze medal at the 2014 World Junior Championships, to silver medal at last year’s World University Games to a fifth place at this year’s World Indoor Championships in Portland Oregon.
McCartney was speechless coming off the field with the New Zealand flag draped around her shoulders.
“Oh my gosh I don’t know what to say.”
“I’m so happy I can’t even talk properly right now, I think I just jumped amazing. I was so happy with how I jumped and I think that’s what makes me so happy right now,” said McCartney.
McCartney went into the event in a good frame of mind.
“I thought I had nothing to lose and I had everything to gain and I was really enjoying it and I just wanted to go out there and jump the best I could and we got the pole selection right which is awesome.
“Once you’re on a roll as well you really start getting into it,” she said.
The twice New Zealand champion has had a 35m improvement in two years which she puts down to receiving expert coaching.
“I have to give almost all the credit to my coach Jeremy (McColl), he’s just incredible he knows pole vault inside and out and he’s the reason that I’m here.”
“We’ve made quite a lot of breakthroughs, my techniques got a lot better in the last year and hopefully it will keep getting better,” she added.
Having her family in Rio was also a contributing factor.
“My whole family is here, I can see them in the crowd and I can hear them and it’s so special, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
So it’s on to the Tokyo Olympic Games in four years’ time.
“That was always the goal so I can’t wait.,” said McCartney.
Australian and Oceania record holder at 4.81m Alana Boyd was fourth with 4.80m which she cleared on her second attempt. There were some anxious moments for McCartney as Boyd came in for her third attempt at 4.85m which if she had cleared would have snatched away the bronze medal.
While the pole vault was in progress the final of the women’s 5000m was being run where Nikki Hamblin finished 17th in 16:14.24. Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya won in 14:26.17.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent