Above: Eliza McCartney on her way to a surprise bronze medal in the pole vault at Rio 2016. Phpto by Antonin Thuillier / Getty Images Sport.
Eliza McCartney was one of the stand-out Kiwi athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics, placing third in the women’s pole vault and collecting an unexpected bronze medal, one of New Zealand’s outstanding four-medal haul for athletics in Rio.
A hiccup with a tender achilles tendon six weeks out from the 2017 London IAAF World Championships has meant a modified approach for the 20 year old Devonport athlete with the infectious smile.
Coach Jeremy McColl and his young charge have reduced training intensity and concentrated on quality rather than quantity to manage the potential injury and are satisfied that McCartney will get to the qualifying round in good shape and ready to take on the top female vaulters in the world.
The two athletes who finished just 5 centimetres ahead of McCartney in Rio, Ekaterina Stefanidi from Greece and Sandi Morris from USA will provide the sternest challenges but neither have been in scintillating form in recent months, making the competition very open.
Should the troublesome achilles hold up for the qualification round and if McCartney can negotiate the sometimes tricky round to make the final, the Kiwi could fancy her chances to at least repeat the colour of the medal from Rio.
Such is the technical complexity of the pole vault, anything can, and does happen in a competition, and it’s not unheard of for favourites to fail all three open height attempts.
Camille Buscomb went very close to qualifying for the 5000m at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, but came up short by small margins.
Determined to not miss out on London, a change of training base to Melbourne and a change in coach to Australian Nic Bideau has worked a treat.
A win in December at the Zatopek 10,000m set her up for a qualifying attempt in Stanford, USA where she ran a huge personal best of 31:45.02, 41 seconds under her previous best and 30 seconds under the qualifying time.
The 27 year old Buscomb, whose best international result was a silver medal at the 2015 World University Games, subsequently qualified for the 5000m as well, running another personal best of 15:19.81.
The 10,000m final is up first for the Hamilton athlete, on the second evening of the championships, followed by the 5000m heats five days later.
Angie Petty who will race in the women’s 800m, is no stranger to the intense cauldron of the World Championships and Olympics.
The 25 year old Cantabrian’s best result to date has been winning gold at the 2015 World University Games in a personal best 1:59.06.
A best of 2:00.44 in 2017 sees her approach the London championships ranked 25th of the 50 athletes entered and she will need to be on her game to make the semifinals through a cut-throat qualification system.
The world standard is very high in the 800m this year with eight athletes under the 1:58.00 barrier, so Petty will need all the speed she has and smart racing tactics to improve on her 16th placing at the World Championships in Beijing two year ago.
Julia Ratcliffe has been another late qualifier in the women’s hammer with her best throw of the year coming just a week before the qualification window closed.
Her 70.35m throw in Princeton was just 0.40m short of her New Zealand record and enough to slot her into the 34 qualified athletes. Based on recent championship events a throw this long in the qualification round will put her on the cusp of making the final 12 athletes.
The 24 year old Hamilton athlete who has just graduated after spending three years studying at Princeton University, claimed the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and bronze at the 2015 World University Games.