Nicole McDermott achieved the dream of many high jumpers this spring, she cleared 2.00m, and she is looking at 2.01m, 2.03m.
In this part 1/3, Stuart Weir examines how the Australian high jumper sees her event, sees her training and looks into the future…
Nicola McDermott 2m high jumper
In April this year at the Australian Championships in Sydney, down the coast from where she lives, high-jumper Nicola McDermott joined 2m club. She describes the moment: “I’d had a very good training block leading into it. My attempt at 2 m earlier in the year showed me that my body was capable of it. It was more about getting my mind ready to perform when it counted. I was so excited when I was jumping on the day. My first attempt was close. I just felt in my heart ‘you’ve got this’. The jump just happened and I remember looking at the bar and it stayed on. I had a standing ovation from the whole stadium – people were screaming. I could see people crying! But I was so in the zone that I didn’t have a moment to take it in. I was thinking ‘2.03m. We have clearance. Let’s go.’ It was incredible”.
But she was still a bit surprised at the reaction: “It’s amazing the publicity I had that week. You would think I had done a ten-centimeter PB. In 2018 I was jumping 1.91 for a medal and now it’s 2m in 2021, so there is a big difference. It is an extra dimension and I suppose because it’s got a nice ring to it. People understand 2m; so I can understand the big fuss. Also at this level, each centimeter is a potential medal so I can understand people being excited about a centimeter”.
Nicola McDermott, photos: Nicola McDermott collection, photo 2
But has she created an expectation and pressure on herself, to clear 2m every time: “I think that’s the pressure that people put on jumpers but now that I’ve done it once it’s almost as if Australia is saying ‘we’ve made it’. I think there will be internal pressure because I’ve set that standard and also because it’s fun jumping that high. That’s why I’ve had so much air time. I’m a bit curious to know if I’d jump 2:01m, and break the record again will people be as excited. I hope so – but I doubt it. Perhaps next time I should attempt 2.10 because there’s something about big numbers that attract people’s attention”.
Clearing 1.96m at her first meet in 2021 gave her confidence that she was moving in the right direction – but only just! “Yes, but I remembered that I had also started 2020 with 1.96m. But this year’s had a lot more clearance in it and we’d been putting together the training blocks. Even outside of training my whole lifestyle had changed in order to become a high performance in the Olympic year. I knew that there was something there. That’s where my faith in God, comes in that I believe that there’s more and better rather than fearing that I would never be able to replicate it or worrying that I would get injured or that the conditions would change. And I decided to put every bit of my energy that I could into making sure that I could jump two meters – to the extent that I was writing out an acceptance speech a few days before, thinking about what I would do when I jumped two meters! I find strength in my faith in God, and not having to fear the consequences of not reaching goals but to have faith to believe that I can do it”.
Nicole McDermott: Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! photo 3: Nicola McDermott collection
Like many jumpers, she never attempts big bars in practice, so clearing 2m in the competition was a totally new experience: “My training PR is 1.86m”, she explains. “We never jump higher than my starting height because we want to work on technique. Also, I am pure adrenaline when I’m jumping so I find it hard to be in the middle of a training block and try to jump high. Normally in training my run-up will be amazing but not my jump!”
Well, she certainly found the big one when she needed it!