McDermott flies high for silver

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Photo Credit: World Athletics

Sydney University Athletics Club’s Nicola McDermott soared to new heights to collect the silver medal in the women’s high jump at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

McDermott’s silver medal leap of 2.02m was a personal best, surpassing her 2.01m effort at a Diamond League meet in Stockholm a week prior to Tokyo. It also made her Australia’s best female high jumper of all time – no Australian woman had jumped two metres before.

She cleared 2.02m at her second attempt and just clipped the bar at 2.04m. Russian Mariya Lasitskene, the three-time world champion, won gold with a jump of 2.04m, while the bronze went to the Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh with 2.00m clearance.

McDermott, 24, a Bachelor of Science student and Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness Elite Athlete Program member, now has her mind set on the world record of 2.09m and perhaps a gold medal at the Paris Olympic Games in 2004.

“It’s such a dream really,” McDermott said. “I went into this competition at the Olympics thinking that anything is possible, and I had faith enough to go whatever the high jumper, whatever the height. Just (to) keep jumping because I really believed that I was able to be in that top three.”

McDermott’s future in the sport was determined at a young age at a school athletic carnival. “When I look back, I guess most eight-year-olds are not thinking about one day jumping two metres in the high jump,” she says. “But back then I was tall for my age, and I had these long legs. My parents put me through a lot of different sports as a child. I had tried swimming, surf lifesaving and tennis and I was useless.

“But it was a school athletics carnival that determined my future. I won pretty much every event that day. Dad then took me to Little Athletics and high jumping became my sport. I loved jumping over the bar and landing on a mattress. I was nine years old when I jumped 1.36m at the NSW Little Athletics Championships and that’s been in my memory bank ever since.”

Nicola said achieving PBs every year has been a team effort, starting with her coach Matt Horsnell, who has kept her focussed and continue to enjoy the sport and competition. “He’s an inspiration,” she said. “Matt and I are good mates and on the same wavelength. He’s very laid back about the way I train and approach events but we’re very determined individuals so we don’t cut corners.

“Matt always had a 10-year plan for me. We were never in a rush and that has allowed me plenty of time to progress. He is always willing to learn and will talk high jump all day. He is passionate, encouraging and so humble. It is impossible not to be motivated by him.”

That 10-year plan might have to be extended to Paris.