Right now pole vaulter Olivia McTaggart is in Finland for the World Junior Champs. They finish today and she was aiming to beat her personal best of 4.40 metres – a height she achieves by launching herself at speed into the air, the long pole she carries bending almost 90 degrees before it recoils, propelling her up into a graceful arc over the waiting bar. It’s mesmerising to watch. She first cleared 4.40m last year, breaking the New Zealand under-17 record and ranking her third in the world for under-18 athletes.
She’ll know if she’s cracked her personal best by now, hopefully securing a place in tonight’s finals (our time), but when we talk the champs are two weeks off and she’s training in Wales. She’s getting a feel for the bigger poles, which are stiffer and harder to bend.
“It’s a really good thing… the bigger the pole the higher the jump – theoretically.”
McTaggart, 18, has been pole vaulting for just under four years. Previously a competitive gymnast, she had to quit on doctor’s orders at the age of 14 after seriously injuring her back. So she found another sport.
She likes the thrill and challenge – both physical and mental – of pole vaulting.
“It can be scary but again, that’s what makes it fun.” Having competed in the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, the 2017 AMP scholarship recipient now has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
But before all of that, McTaggart agreed to partake in our Sunday Grill.