There are parallels aplenty between Australia’s pre-eminent pole vaulters Nina Kennedy and Kurtis Marschall.
The current faces of WAIS’ flagship pole vault program are both 25 years old, ranked in the top 16 in the world and targeting gold medals in Birmingham.
There is also a shared desire to use the Commonwealth Games to make amends for underwhelming Tokyo Olympics which were defined more by disappointment than medal tilts.
Bussleton product Kennedy suffered a debilitating run of serious injuries in the lead-up to the Olympics which scuppered her preparation; in many ways, it was a miracle she even made it to Tokyo.
Marschall meanwhile, reached the final but failed to register a height as nerves got the better of him.
As far as the pair are concerned, Birmingham is a chance to right the wrongs and with medals to defend (Marschall won gold on the Gold Coast; Kennedy a bronze) there are added expectations.
Kennedy has enjoyed a strong start to the season in Europe, highlighted by a silver medal at a Diamond League meeting in Morocco, and could not be happier to be fit and firing on all cylinders.
“Obviously this last year has been filled with quite a lot of injuries, so the fact I’m just out there jumping and I’m healthy is a massive win and I feel really lucky that I’m even in that position,” Kennedy said.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the physio and my team are just really making sure my training loads are right and the exercises are suiting my specific body and past injury history.”
After the thrill of her Gold Coast debut, Kennedy has her sights set on living up to the tag of favourite.
“It feels a bit more serious this time around. I feel like I have a little bit of pressure, but it’s exciting,” she said.
Like Kennedy, Marschall’s Olympics was hampered by a lack of preparation, borne of an inability to compete against the world’s best in the lead-up.
“We couldn’t leave Australia in the lead up because we had to do two weeks quarantine coming back into the country, so we couldn’t go over and compete against the best guys in the world,” Marschall said.
“I had to just do my whole preparation in Australia, which is limiting for me because I’m a guy that thrives off competition and likes to compete against the best in the world. I feel like that’s what pushes me to go a little bit higher.”
“Mentally, going into Tokyo I was so underdone because I hadn’t competed against any of these guys in such a long time, but this year, I’ve basically seen them week in, week out so I get to mix it with those guys and I don’t feel the nerves necessarily that I did last year.
Marschall said gold medals for both himself and Kennedy would be a feather in the cap of the pair’s coaches and support staff, led by Paul Burgess and James Fitzpatrick.
“If both of us come out with the gold, that would just be the biggest thing for the WAIS pole vaulting program and pole vaulting in Australia,” he said.