Olivia McTag­gart

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - THE GRILL - Words by Emma Page In part­ner­ship with AMP Schol­ar­ships Ap­pli­ca­tions for AMP schol­ar­ships are now open. Go to amp.co.nz/schol­ar­ships.

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.

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