WITH A SMILE ON HER FACE, THE SKY IS NEW­MAN’S LIMIT

23-year-old says she wants to put Canada ‘on the map for the women’s pole vault’

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - DAN BARNES dbarnes@post­media.com twit­ter.com/sports­dan­barnes

The jump was cer­tainly im­pres­sive enough to war­rant a call from home: 4.75 me­tres, for a new Cana­dian women’s pole vault record.

But Alysha New­man’s mom Paula wanted to know what the back­flip was about.

“My mom called me,” she re­called, “and said ‘Alysha, you did a back­flip! You don’t do that ev­ery time.’ I said, ‘You know what mom, I don’t know why I didn’t do it at worlds. It’s just that (4.75), it feels like I’m in the game now. I can be a medal­list now.’

“I did the fist pump, too. Then I fell back down on the mat. I don’t even re­mem­ber do­ing that. All this pres­sure I’ve been putting on my­self, all this time and ef­fort, that was just re­lease. So much weight lifted off my shoul­ders. I kind of laugh at it, re­ally.”

New­man, a 23-year-old who was born in Lon­don, Ont., raised the bar in Beckum, Germany on Sun­day, ex­tend­ing the rather amaz­ing roll she has been on since set­ting a new Cana­dian in­door record in Jan­uary. Her run in­cludes a 4.71-me­tre clear­ance in Co­ral Gables, Fla., which had been the pre­vi­ous Cana­dian best, and a sev­enth-place fin­ish at the worlds in Lon­don, Eng­land, where she made it over 4.65 me­tres.

This dream sea­son cor­re­sponds with com­ple­tion of a ki­ne­si­ol­ogy de­gree from the Univer­sity of Mi­ami, and a switch to coaches Doug Wood and Zdenek Kryko­rka at Bolton Pole Vault in south­ern On­tario.

“With the sup­port of my fam­ily and coaches and Ath­let­ics Canada, I know I have a great fu­ture, know­ing you don’t re­ally peak un­til you’re 30 in women’s pole vault,” she said.

“It just shows I could po­ten­tially get more than one Olympic medal. That’s my goal: I want to do five Olympics to­tal and medal in as many as I can. I want to put Canada on the map for the women’s pole vault. I want to be one of the best in the world.”

The world record be­longs to Rus­sia’s Ye­lena Is­in­baeva at 5.06 me­tres, but she re­tired in 2016.

This year’s top list is led by Ka­te­rina Ste­fanidi of Greece at 4.91. She’ll be the favourite to take home the US$50,000 first prize on Fri­day as the Di­a­mond League wraps up with the sec­ond of two finals in Brus­sels. There’s US$20,000 for sec­ond, US$10,000 for third and it trick­les down to US$2,000 for eighth. New­man is one of 12 women jump­ing for dol­lars. Only four of them have bet­ter sea­son bests.

“That gives me a great shot at top three and one through eight is great prize money,” New­man said. “I try not to go in think­ing about the money be­cause I al­ways tell ev­ery­one even if I didn’t get paid do­ing this, I would still do it. I love do­ing it.”

That’s ob­vi­ous from ev­ery pic­ture you’ve seen lately of New­man. There is joy plas­tered all over her face at the worlds, at Beckum and in Zurich’s main train sta­tion, where she topped 4.62 me­tres in a rock con­cert­like at­mos­phere. She walked out to Cana­dian Shawn Men­des belt­ing out There’s Noth­ing Holdin’ Me Back, her go-to song of late.

“That’s what’s so cool about pole vault — you can take it to the street,” she said. “I find when the crowd is so close and they’re cheer­ing and clap­ping, that’s all they’re fo­cused on is you. You’re in the lime­light, so you put a lot of pres­sure on your­self. You don’t want to look weird. You don’t want to mess up. You want to jump well and put on a show for peo­ple.”

Her prow­ess and show­man­ship has grown the fan base.

“Ev­ery­one I talk to lately has such high com­pli­ments about me when I jump,” she said. “They say, ‘We just want to watch you be­cause you bring so much life and en­ergy to ev­ery jump.’ I don’t even pur­posely do it. Those emo­tions just come out nat­u­rally be­cause I’ve been hold­ing them in for spe­cial mo­ments like my sev­enth at worlds and my Cana­dian record. You work so hard and they only come a cou­ple times a year, so it builds up — and that’s when I re­lease it.”

Af­ter Fri­day, the dream sea­son will be over. It will be time to help her sis­ter dec­o­rate a Toronto condo, to visit friends in Mi­ami and Van­cou­ver.

“I just need a men­tal break,” she said. “This year was a shock to me. We didn’t know what was go­ing to hap­pen. I came back from school. We didn’t know if I was go­ing to click with the new coaches, we didn’t know if Europe and trav­el­ling was go­ing to make me home­sick or if I was go­ing to com­pete as well.

“So it was an ex­per­i­men­tal year, and ev­ery­thing we wanted or even more has been ac­com­plished.”

PA­TRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES

On­tario’s Alysha New­man, seen at the IAAF World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don this month, says she has a “great shot” to win prize money on Fri­day as the Di­a­mond League wraps in Brus­sels. She set a Cana­dian pole vault record of 4.75 me­tres on Sun­day.

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