Pole vaulting onto the world's biggest sporting stage

18 August 2016
Eliza McCartney

One of the New Zealand Olympic team’s brightest future stars has pole vaulted her way onto the biggest sporting stage in the world.

Eliza McCartney, a physiology student at the University of Auckland, will compete in the final of the women’s pole vault on Saturday morning.

“My goal is to have the best technical competition I can have," she said before heading to Rio. "I’ve made a lot of technical improvements recently, just trying to nail a few little technical things. If I can nail the best jump I can I will be happy.” 

Training three to four hours a day, six days a week, her build-up to the biggest event of her athletic career to date has been full of variety.

“I train on pole vault, track, in the gym, and some gymnastics. My coach is a former gymnast so I’ve been learning a lot about body awareness which is so good for the technical aspects of the jump.”

Eliza could be forgiven for putting study on the back burner, however, she has continued her studies part-time while training for the Olympics.

“I’ve always really enjoyed academics and wanted to study physiology. I do enjoy it, it’s not just a distraction from pole vault.

“I’ve always aspired to do medicine and in the future I hope to study it, but it’s not really practical to start medical school at the moment. I’m enjoying physiology, so I’m glad I made the right choice.”

Auckland-born Eliza says she chose to study at the University of Auckland as it was close to home, allowing her to continue training seamlessly.

“The University is also highly regarded outside of New Zealand, and offers a lot of support.

“When I started uni, I got a lot of advice and support in working out how I would fit my studies around going overseas to compete, because I have a lot of labs which you can’t miss.

“People at uni have been congratulating me on my Olympic selection – it has been great to know they care.”

A University of Auckland Blues Awards major award winner – Sportswoman of the Year – in 2015, Eliza also received the emerging talent award at the Halberg Awards earlier this year.

She is the current outdoor world junior record holder at 4.64m and New Zealand national record holder with 4.80m.

Eliza is part of the University's High Performance Student Support Programme. She competes in the women’s pole vault final at 11.30am on Saturday 20 August.