Elite Athlete Program high jumper and Biochemistry major, Nicola McDermott, recently earned the bronze medal at this year’s Commonwealth Games. I spoke with her after the games to discuss her love of the sport, uni and her future goals.
How long have you done high jump? How did you start the sport?
I have done high jump since I was 8 years old. I joined my local Little Athletics Club when I was 7 and the next year we were introduced to High Jump. I immediately started specifically training for it with a local club coach and when I was 11 years old I started with my personal coach Matthew Horsnell and have been with him for 10 years.
Besides the Commonwealth Games, what has been your biggest sports accomplishment so far?
My biggest sporting accomplishment was probably last year when I competed at the 2017 World Championships. It is very hard to progress from a junior international to senior international representative in athletics and I was overjoyed to be selected. Though the performance wasn’t the best, the experience was unforgettable.
Athletically, how has your life changed in the past 12 months?
My life has changed a lot. By making World championships for the first time in my University career I had to go from being a full time student to part time with my studies. This opened up a lot more spare time to train, travel and compete around the world. I train a lot more and rely on a lot more on health professionals now for my performance than ever before.
How did it feel to compete and medal in the Commonwealth Games?
It was a great feeling. I knew from previous Commonwealth Games that if I jumped near my personal best it could win me a medal. Competing in that atmosphere when you are in very good shape gives you a feeling that anything is possible. For me I was so thankful to have won a medal, but I walked out knowing that I had a lot more in me to jump higher. So this experience has motivated me to continue pressing on to my big sporting goals.
What is your favorite aspect of your sport?
My favorite aspect is that my biggest competitor is not someone else, but me. I want to do my best, it really isn’t about the others when I am out there jumping. This makes my sport less about beating another but pushing each other to jump higher. It changes everything when you don’t have to compare yourself to another person but encourage them to jump high with you.
What future plans/goals do you have for your high jump career?
I want to jump over 2m and win an international medal. Australian women have fallen behind when it comes to open women high jump rankings and medals over the years and I would love to give jumping a facelift for Australia. Overcoming this height barrier wouldn’t just affect me or my community, but affect the whole nation.
What was it like coming straight back to uni after competing?
Coming back was hard, you have invested so much time in sport that once it is over there is a lot to catch up on in University. I studied quite a bit in the village which made the transition easier, yet there’s nothing like a Mid-Semester exam to ground you after Commonwealth Games!
What is your favorite part about uni?
In Uni I like the lifestyle of study that it can balance out work, social life and training. The friends and communities you gain over the years are encouraging, as well as meeting new people every day.
How do you balance your academics with your sport?
Priority setting and time management are the two biggest factors in finding the right balance for me personally. To put it in perspective, I take training sessions as a ‘compulsory attendance practical,” which gives them a big priority. I make sure they are done, because each session creates a firmer foundation to base the following session on. I see it the same for academia, you prioritize the things that are really important, whether it be the compulsory practicals or the lectures that might not always be recorded. Then I organize my week to make sure I can fit in the other things, like assignments, lectures and revision alongside with massages, dietician appointments and work.
What are you planning on doing with your major/ what is your dream job?
At the moment I find my biochemistry major fascinating. The dream job is to be a dietician travelling and working with athletes and communities to better the health of Australians. One area I am passionate about is establishing healthy eating habits within athletic communities as a preventative to eating disorders.