This is part 3 of part 3 on Nicola McDermott by Stuart Weir. We expect big things from Nicola at the Tokyo Olympics.
Nicola McDermott part 3 – Nicola, God and Blanka
A few years ago I interviewed Blanka VlaÅ¡iÄ‡, the legendary Croatian high jumper. Blanka told me: “I was born to do high jump”. She then went on to explain how, as a Christian, she was conscious of the presence of Jesus with her when she jumps: “He’s with me all the time. He is part of me. I talk to him. When I am jumping, I am not praying to win, I’m just praying to be able to give what I have at that moment…. I pray I tell him, Jesus, I give you my feet. I give you my body. Everything I do today I want people to know that it is you and not me”.
More of that resonates with Nicola McDermott than you might think. First of all her mom is Croatian and she too has a Christian faith: “High jump is my calling in the sense that I’ve been able to use the platform of a high jump to become the person that I am today”, Nicola told me. “I believe the calling that I have is not just as a high jumper and to jump two meters but to bring hope to people. To show people that you could have a big dream and spend years of your life working towards it. And also about identity because when my identity was in sport and based on something that I had done or what I could do, rather than on who I was as a person, it caused problems. When identity is based on what you do – a performance-based identity – it will never satisfy. I found that because I could never jump high enough to be truly satisfied. But when your identity is based on who you are and the fact that you are loved and that you have a purpose and calling greater than just what you do – but who you are. I think that is a message that I can use my platform for.
Blanka Vlasic, photo by European Athletics
“So when I’m training and not just training for me to be able to jump higher but to get a greater reach to make people aware of their own identity and stir them in hope that there are a lot greater things for them than trying to perform to get to a certain level because they are already loved where they are at, which allows them to perform out of joy and freedom. I believe that in my high jumping I have been able to reach new heights but if I was just doing it as a physical thing when I got tired I would probably give up. If I was just doing it for myself, when funding got cut or coronavirus arrived or catastrophe, I might’ve had the grit to continue but I would probably have been burned in the process or become a bit bitter – stubborn or proud. But because I have such a love for God I have been able to enjoy the process and not really be impacted in who I truly am as I have been more exposed to success and the spotlight. I believe that is a very core of my being, my faith in God which remains the same whether performances increase or decrease. That is the hope that I hang on to like an anchor. Eventually, my sporting life will end but I know that these things will never fade away”.
Her Croatian mom used to watch national heroine, Blanka on TV. As a little girl, Nicola became fascinated by Blanka and the high jump. “I was 8 in 2004 and for the next few years, Blanka was jumping out of her skin. At the time we had dial-up Internet which was expensive but the only time I was allowed to watch Youtube was to watch Blanka. We had so much passion for her and she would dance and demand the crowd to clap to her rhythm. She made the high jump so much fun. I just thought ‘when I grow up I want to be like Blanka’. The family in Croatia were very passionate about sport and would always be talking about Blanka. She is still such a big inspiration to me, not just the way she jumped but also her heart for the athletes and towards God. She’s left such a legacy. It was always my dream to jump against her and now that she’s retired perhaps I can pick up the baton and continue jumping two-meter heights”.