Pole vaulter New­man com­pet­ing for the first time since May

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

TORONTO — Alysha New­man might have been wear­ing a megawatt smile when she soared to pole vault gold at the Com­mon­wealth Games last March.

But the 24- year- old was com­pet­ing through pain so bad, she’d barely been able to prac­tise.

“Oh yeah, it was hor­ri­ble,” New­man said. “I had taken two weeks off be­fore where I was hardly do­ing any work­outs, and I was just do­ing re­hab and treat­ment, and then I’d com­pete and that was it.”

De­spite bat­tling a knee in­jury that had plagued her since the sum­mer of 2016, New­man tied her Cana­dian record in winning Games gold in Mel­bourne.

If she be­lieved she could grin and bear it through the end of the sea­son, that ended in May when she heard a pop at the Pre­fontaine Clas­sic. She was di­ag­nosed with a torn patel­lar ten­don that even­tu­ally shelved her sea­son.

Seven months later, New­man says she’s 100 per cent, and she’ll kick off what could be two huge sea­sons Fri­day in a meet at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

“Oh my gosh, I’ve been wait­ing so long for Jan­uary to come,” she said.

If there was a sea­son to miss, last sum­mer was it. The next two sea­sons, on the other hand, in­clude the 2019 Pan Amer­i­can Games in Lima, Peru, 2019 world cham­pi­onships in Doha, Qatar, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

New­man has set a few goals. “Def­i­nitely I want to be a world medal­list, that’s No. 1,” she said. “A Pan Am medal­list, that’s an­other one. And I need to make sure by the end of the sea­son I’m ranked top 5 in the world, and lead­ing into 2020 I think that’s very rea­son­able to do, es­pe­cially if I want to be com­pet­i­tive in 2020.”

Now back in top form, they’re def­i­nitely reach­able, she said. New­man’s in­jury came and went through the 2017 sea­son, but “hit re­ally bad” last year. It af­fected more than her knee, throw­ing her body off bal­ance. Her hip hurt. She rolled her an­kle. The speed and strength of her runup and take­off suf­fered.

“I wish I could tell peo­ple how great prac­tice is, and I can’t be­lieve how much that in­jury was hin­der­ing my take­off,” said New­man, whose Cana­dian record is 4.75 me­tres. “So now that I don’t have that, I just feel like I can jump the moon.

“It’s so weird, I was telling my coaches af­ter prac­tices when I was back full- time for a good two months, I would still be sit­ting there wait­ing for the pain to come, and there was noth­ing hap­pen­ing. There was no pain. I had been jump­ing on it for two years with that pain. It was such a habit to feel it, that I would sit there think­ing ‘ Am I hurt­ing, or am I not?’

“It’s gone from where it was just such a norm, to where I don’t even feel it, it’s never on my mind any more.”

New­man made the most of her time off. She vis­ited friends. She pur­sued a mod­el­ling side gig, land­ing a job in Nord­strom’s cam­paign for its 2019 spring col­lec­tion. She de­signed her friend’s kitchen re­model.

“I was able to visit a lot of peo­ple and re­ally take a men­tal break of heal­ing my­self, but also rekin­dling friend­ships,” she said. “I was able to do things that I could just say yes to ... it was re­ally just stepping into dif­fer­ent things that I’m re­ally pas­sion­ate about off the track.”

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