Eliza McCartney produced the performance of a lifetime to win a bronze medal in the women’s pole vault today. It was New Zealand’s 16th medal of the Rio games.
McCartney, only 19, equalled her personal best of 4.80m to beat some of the best pole vaulters in the world.
The North Shore teenager led the contest until near the end because she had four consecutive successes, at 4.50m, 4.60m, 4.70m and 4.80m, the only vaulter to get that far with a clean sheet.
However, Greek Ekaterini Stefanidi and American Sandi Morris got over 4.85m and McCartney missed all three of her attempts at that height.
To go to the Olympics and equal her own national record was a magnificent effort for McCartney, who showed the composure of a champion and looked like she was having a great time out there in front of a capacity crowd that had turned up to watch Usain Bolt’s final run in an Olympics.
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.”
She said she went into the event in a good frame of mind.
“I thought I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was really enjoying it and just wanted to go out there and jump the best I could.
“Once you’re on a roll, you really start getting into it.”
She was quick to credit her coach, Jeremy McColl.
“I have to give almost all the credit to Jeremy. He’s just incredible - he knows pole vault inside and out and he’s the reason 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.”
McCartney’s family were in Rio to watch her great day.
“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.”
She said the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were already looming large for her.
“That was always the goal, so I can’t wait.”
The other New Zealand in action in the evening session of track and field was Nikki Hamblin in the 5000m. She was added to the field after her now-famous tumble in the heat. Hamblin found the pace too hot and finished 17th in 16min 14.24s. The gold medal went to Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, who won in 14min 26.17s.Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Nikki Hamblin Eliza McCartney Athletics