Australian high jumper Nicola McDermott has broken the 2-metre barrier — the first time for an Australian woman.
The 24-year old made the historic hump at the Australian Track and Field Championships in Sydney on Sunday, clearing 2.00m on her second attempt to beat Eleanor Patterson’s previous Oceania record of 1.99m set in February last year.
“I knew in my body I could do a lot higher, but the fear aspect of high jump is the thing that gets to you with the mind,” McDermott said after her record-setting jump.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, because I’m still so in the zone because I know in order to get the gold in Tokyo you need to jump higher than two metres.”
“I was really happy with it. Psychologically I wasn’t scared and if you’re not scared, you can jump so high. The world record is 2.09m. So I mean if you’re not scared of it, why not just go for it.”
“We have all the building blocks in place. It is just a matter of building, I know my roots are good, I know I’ve got good strength, it’s just now adding to that.”
At the 2016 Games in Rio, the female high jump gold medal winner was taken out by Spanish athlete Ruth Beitia who cleared 1.97m. McDermott was a 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, where she made three unsuccessful attempts at 2.03m.
McDermott said she was inspired by a biblical passage which she wrote on her wrist during Sunday afternoon’s competition.
“What was written was fearless hearts are birthed in perfect love and that’s from Jesus and 1 John 4:18,” she said. “That’s been my verse because I was always scared of two metres.”
“I knew in my body I could do a lot higher but the fear aspect of high jump is the thing that gets to you with the mind.”
The performance secures McDermott’s place on the Tokyo Olympics Australian track-and-field team.
“I’m not going to expect big heights, I’m going to make sure that there is big heights,” she said. “I’m not going to give a reason for why they wouldn’t come.”
“That’s the process I am going to replicate for Tokyo hopefully.”
McDermott told Coast Sport three years ago when she was announced as their ambassador that she first got into high jumping through little athletics at the age of 7.
“At my first school carnival I realised I had a gift for sport,” she said.
She also revealed that her greatest goal was to “get Australia to the next level for high jump.”
“No woman has ever jumped over 2m which is a goal of mine,” she said. “I believe consistent jumps over 2m will gain Olympic and World Championship medals. I am in it for the long haul and I believe jumping this high will pave the way for more women in the future to jump over 2m from Australia.”
On Sunday, another female athlete set a national record; Discus thrower Dani Stevens became the first Australian to win the same event 14 times at national level, recording a best throw of 62.74m.
“I’m back to as close to 100 per cent as I could have hoped for,” Stevens said at the event which was also Australia’s Olympic selection trials. “I feel like I have some power and velocity in my arm, which if I wasn’t close to 100 per cent then I wouldn’t have.”
In 2019, at just 21, Stevens became the youngest ever women’s discus world champion.
“I’m back to as close to 100 per cent as I could have hoped for,” Stevens said. In February last year, Stevens needed urgent spinal surgery after an accident in the gym — an incident she describes as “axed myself doing a lift” on Instagram.
“My C4/5 disc (neck) had popped out and shattered in two,” she wrote. “One part pushing on my spinal cord and the other pushing on the nerve root.. I was told they couldn’t be sure whether I would get full function back or not, let alone throw discus again.. At the time I was devastated but determined to do everything I could to get function back, that was my only priority and what kept me motivated throughout the entire process…and if I could ever throw discus again, well that would be an added bonus.”
Over the weekend, she said her energy is coming back.
“I feel like I have some power and velocity in my arm which if I wasn’t close to 100 per cent then I wouldn’t have,” she said.
On Sunday afternoon, Athletics Australia announced their initial selection of 20 athletes for Tokyo — more than half of the athletes will be making their first Olympic, including McDermott.