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Australian Track and Field Championships: Nicola McDermott remains positive despite setbacks

Nicola McDermott describes it as like taking a Ferrari off road, you just don’t do it.

The horror big wet which has struck the NSW Central Coast over the past month has thrown the Olympic silver medallist’s preparation into disarray.

While McDermott knows her battles are minuscule compared to the tragedy and loss others have felt, the extraordinary weather event has meant Australia’s high-jump star has had to be inventive with her training.

“We’ve had to change everything with training,” she explains.

“My coach (Nick Horsnell) has had to drive all over the Central Coast trying to find a spot which wasn’t flooded.

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Sue Graham: Nicola McDermott
Camera IconOlympic silver medallist Nicola McDermott says she has had to be inventive with her training because of the extraordinary weather event this summer. Sue Graham Credit: News Corp Australia

“We managed to go down to Umina Beach, there was some grass on an oval just next to the sand down there which wasn‘t flooding. Even then sometimes I would be doing exercises, like hopping on stairs, and there would be a waterfall going down it at the same time.”

Normally McDermott, 25, would be in competition mode, practising every aspect of her jumps but instead she has barely seen a tartan track.

“I‘ve done everything but jumping,” she says.

“You can’t do high jump apart from a tartan track, it’s like taking a Ferrari off road, you’re just not going to do it.”

Sue Graham: Nicola McDermott
Camera IconThe Olympic silver medallist has trained at several locations on the NSW Central Coast to beat the rain. Sue Graham Credit: News Corp Australia

McDermott will jump on Saturday at the Australian Track and Field Championships in Sydney.

Added to her training disruption was a bout of Covid which ruled her out of last month’s Sydney Track Classic and the world indoor championships in Belgrade.

Such a scenario would have most athletes tearing their hair out but in typical McDermott fashion she’s remaining positive about her season debut on Saturday.

“We are in uncharted territory now,” she says.

“I know the body that I have right now is potentially in the best shape of my life but it‘s just the experience and that missing time (of jumping) which I’m now building back up.”

Her clash with Eleanor Patterson, who continued on from her fifth place in Tokyo to win a silver medal at the world indoors and clear a personal best 2.00m, will be the highlight of the national titles.

“She is just so well deserving, she is an incredible athlete,” McDermott says about her teammate. ”

To get a medal and break an Australian record (indoor), there is no one more deserving than her. She is just wonderful.”

It was 12 months ago at this event when McDermott announced herself by becoming the first Australian woman to clear 2.00m.

“The nationals last year for me was probably one of the most defining moments of my life,” she says.

Four months later she was standing on the Olympic dais in Tokyo having delivered the performance of her life, clearing 2.02m to win the silver medal.

Suddenly she was a household name, her strong religious beliefs and quirks which included rating every jump in a journal during the competition were all being celebrated on the world stage.

Despite continuing on competing post Tokyo for a number of months, the glow of McDermott‘s triumph was still evident when she got home.

“One day I was walking on the main road as I had to catch the bus to training for some reason,” she says.

“People started beeping their horns and yelling out, ‘Well done Nicola’. It was like 10 people in a two-minute walk.

“Then I would be in the shopping centre and people would come up and start talking to me. It was a very strange thing for me.

“That was my prayer going into the Olympics that I could be an example or even just a bit of hope for people. It‘s been a big journey and it has been an amazing platform to share my message.

“I feel like I have been asleep for the last few months, when in fact I haven‘t and I’ve been really busy, but there is something that comes alive when I start competing again so I’m keen to wake that one up.”

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