The AIMES Awards in 2016 was the second time that 19 year old Eliza McCartney has been recognised by the North Harbour Club. She first won an AIMES Emerging Talent Award in 2014. In 2016 she went all the way, winning the AIMES Sport Award and also picking up the AIMES Supreme Award.
"Being recognised by your community, where you live and train, is always very special," said Eliza after receiving her two awards in November 2016. "It is an honour to receive the awards, and an honour to be following all the incredible young people recognised before me. I absolutely loved the awards evening and especially enjoyed the Rio theme. It was a fun night and a great way to celebrate the success of young people in the community."
2016 has been a a good year for the pole-vaulter. When applying for this AIMES Award in July, Eliza had this to say from Germany where she was preparing for the Olympics… “2020 had been the Olympic games that I was aiming for but things started coming together really well in late 2015 and I managed to jump the A standard required for Olympic nomination off a short run up in November.”
History tells us that 2016 turned out to be a pretty special year for her when she won a bronze medal at the Olympics in Rio, capturing the nation and becoming the youngest Olympic medallist in the Women’s Pole Vault.
“Six years ago when I first started learning to pole vault I never imagined that in 2016 it would have become my full time occupation and that I’d be heading to the Olympics. The feeling of knowing that I would be going to Rio was amazing but we quickly reset the goal to have a go at the World Junior record while I was still eligible. I had a couple of competitions lined up, came close but didn’t do it until on December 19th when I found myself at the last competition of the year lining up for my third and final attempt at the 4.64m I needed. The feeling of seeing the bar still there as I fell was exhilarating and is what keeps me wanting to do more. It was incredibly satisfying to know that I have jumped higher than any other woman under 20 in the world.”
Next Eliza managed to do the 4.71m needed to qualify for the IAAF World Indoor Champs and then extended her personal best and all of her records with a 4.80m jump at Nationals in March this year. That vault ranked her at number 11 on the world all time list. The IAAF World Indoor Champs was in Portland, Oregon, USA and was Eliza’s first competition amongst the best senior women pole vaulters in the world. She says It was like an Olympic final and all but two of the top 10 women were there.
“It was an incredible atmosphere. I got fifth and I learned so much about vaulting at that level.”
Outside of Pole Vault, Eliza – always a high academic achiever at Takapuna Grammar – is still studying Physiology at Auckland University, although it has recently taken a back seat. She achieved an A+ in the one paper she has done and Eliza says that studying gives her some balance and she is focused on working towards her degree and she still plans to study medicine in the future.
“I have also really enjoyed some of the sponsorship and promotional sides of my sport. I was chosen by the NZ Olympic Committee to be involved with their sponsor campaign and to model the team uniform when it was launched. I also enjoyed being part of the New Zealand Olympic Committee Rio 2016 ‘Be The Inspiration’ campaign and the High Performance Sport New Zealand ‘This is High Performance’ campaign.”
“I have also been invited by several schools to speak at their assemblies and found that enormously rewarding. I feel quite strongly about healthy eating and chose some simple messages to talk about with the children. This is something I would like to do more of in the future.”
Recently Eliza also became an ambassador for Beef and Lamb New Zealand, joining existing athlete ambassadors Lisa Carrington, Sophie Pascoe and Sarah Walker.
“I have been fortunate to be recognised with a number of awards in the last year and was again chosen as a finalist for the Halberg Emerging Talent award. This year I won which was a huge honour and gave me a real boost to feel they believed I have what it takes to succeed in my sport.”
“I am very grateful for the support that the North Harbour Club have provided for me through the AIMES Awards programme. I really enjoy being part of the network and manage to get to a few (AIMES Winners Network) gatherings where I always meet such an interesting range of people.”
Eliza says that AIMES Awards funds will be used directly to help her and her coach travel and compete in Europe as a build up to the IAAF World Champs in London next year.
"Pole vault is a technical event which means my coach, Jeremy McColl is completely vital to everything I do in this sport. In 2017 we are planning on going to Europe for their summer and I not only need to get myself there, but also Jeremy. The funds from these awards will go a long way in supporting us to get to the major competitions in Europe."
Eliza says her long term goal is to get to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and be competitive for an Olympic medal. She certainly has a steely determination. "No matter what aspect of life it is, if you have a drive for something and set a goal, there should be nothing in the way of you working hard to get there."
When asked what her 10 year plan is, Eliza has a determination around that as well. "In 10 years time I want to be top of my game in the world, the person to beat."
As the recipient of the NORTH HARBOUR CLUB AIMES SPORT AWARD (sponsored by AUT Millennium) and the AIMES Supreme Award, Eliza McCartney received $30,000. As the AIMES Supreme Award recipient she also gets to keep the Sir Peter Blake Trophy for 12 months.
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