Above: Olivia McTaggart vaulting at the New Zealand Championships in March 2017. Photo by Alisha Lovrich / Temposhot.
National Under-20 pole vault champion Olivia McTaggart is a rising star in her domain. The 17-year-old Aucklander and 4.40m vaulter offers a glimpse into her world by answering our Five Minutes With questions.
Why and how did you start in the sport of athletics?
I was a competitive gymnast for ten years at an elite level but in mid-2014 I received the devastating news I could no longer continue gymnastics due to significant back problems. While looking for new sports, my teammate Imogen Ayris had been doing pole vault about six months, when she lured me into the thrilling sport and even though not so much better for my back, I gave it a go and adapted. From there I fell in love with the thrill and excitement of the sport.
What was your first significant win?
Winning bronze as an under-16 athlete at the Australian Junior Championships, was big for me because I had been in the sport less than six months. I achieved a PB in my first international competition and I followed it up by winning gold my Nationals.
What was your first major setback?
It was adapting to the pole vault because of my back injury. For some time, it hampered my vaulting and I wondered if I would be able to vault but here I am still going strong.
What is your best piece of coaching advice?
Take every opportunity given to you to learn, and to trust the process because nothing worth having comes easy.
What qualities do you think every athlete needs to succeed?
I like to use 3 P’s, Passion, Persistence and Pride. Enjoy what you do, stick with it and being humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Having the grit and determination to push through the hard times makes the best athletes.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your time in the sport?
To have fun, as soon as you lose passion for what you do it becomes too repetitive and hard to succeed. Enjoying the sport will keep you in a good mindset and prevent sporting “ruts”.
What is the best thing about being an athlete?
The opportunities and characteristics it provides. It helps you grow into a responsible and hard-working adult with many great memories and experiences along the way.
If you could have a superpower what would it be and why?
Teleporting. For one, it would make transporting poles much easier! It would also allow me to travel and see people overseas without money, worries or time in the way.
What is your hidden talent?
Darts. I once got three bullseyes in a row!
What would be your last meal?
Waffles and ice cream with banana and chocolate, if that counts as a meal.
What is the most important piece of kit and why?
Poles most definitely, but a close second comes the D3 spray we use to grip onto the poles, which gives me the confidence to jump high without worrying about slipping.
What is your karaoke song?
All Star by Smash Mouth
What is your greatest indulgence?
Ice cream (also my favourite food). I’m a sucker for a great gelato (Ferrero or coconut flavour)
If you could have three dinner party guests, who would they be and why?
Sam Kendricks a top male vaulter who I look up to and seems so genuine and positive about life/ pole vault
Ashton Eaton, greatest decathlete in the world. The way he can be so good at every discipline amazes me
Shawn Johnson, A gymnast and person I idolised as a kid who has made me work harder to also reach that level.