Above: Eliza McCartney in action at the 2016 World Indoor Champs on Portland. Photo by Getty Images.
New Zealand pole vaulter Eliza McCartney has finished fifth at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, USA.
In her first major international competition, McCartney showed no sign of nerves and battled it out with the top vaulters in the world, clearing 4.70m, leaving her just outside the medals on the opening session of the championships on Friday afternoon (NZ time).
Not overawed by the occasion, McCartney appeared to be enjoying the intense competition in the packed Oregon Convention Centre, which has been converted into an amazing World Championships venue.
McCartney opened with an easy clearance on her first attempt at 4.50 before passing at 4.60 and clearing 4.70 on her second attempt to move to a share of third place. She passed at 4.75 in an attempt to get among the medals but was not successful with three attempts at 4.80. As it turned out the New Zealander would have needed to clear 4.85 to get among the medals and her aggressive tactics did not cost her any places.
"I can't say I was happy with how I was jumping," she said after the event. "I was not doing so well technically, and was falling off the pole a lot. It was just not going out how I wanted it to.
"But I can't be unhappy with the height. It was a good height and shows I'm consistent. I would have loved to jump just a little bit better but it is what it is and it was just amazing out there so I'm just happy to be here."
Such was the level of the competition, won by American Jen Suhr with a championship record vault of 4.90, McCartney’s clearance would have placed her no lower than fifth at any previous indoor or outdoor world championships or Olympic Games and would have won gold at every Commonwealth Games. Silver went to Sandi Morris for an American quinella while Greek Ekatarini Stefanidi won bronze.
The North Shore teenager, nine years younger than the average age of the other athletes in the field, had previously won bronze at the World Junior Championships in 2014 and silver at the 2015 World University Games. Just turned 19 in December, McCartney has been on a record breaking spree since claiming the world junior record of 4.64 in December and raised the New Zealand record to 4.80 at the recent New Zealand championships taking her to number 11 on the world all-time list.
In her first ever international indoor competition, McCartney finished ahead the top two Diamond League vaulters in 2015, Fabiana Murer (Brazil) and Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou (Greece), the world all-time fifth and eighth vaulters respectively and collected US$6000 prize money.
McCartney will return to New Zealand for a small break before continuing training with Athletics New Zealand High Performance pole vault coach Jeremy McColl for the Olympics and heading to Europe for useful competition in preparation for her first Olympics in Rio.
Next up for the Kiwi team in Portland are Nick Willis in the 1500m and shot putters Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill on Saturday afternoon NZ time.