Eliza McCartney has spoken out about how a challenging “type of mental illness” almost derailed her in the lead up to the Rio Olympics.
The 19-year-old pole vaulting star told the New Zealand Herald how “mental blocks” had gotten in the way of her training programme for the first half of last year.
The Olympic bronze medal holder explained the performance pressure she was experiencing at the time wasn't easy for her to manage.
“It’s not so much depression but an athlete’s mental block, like a type of mental illness,” she told the New Zealand Herald.
Eliza admits her long-term Rio training programme was affected, and she wasn’t able to just “snap out of it" to keep going.
“You want to snap out of it but you can’t. I didn’t know how to at that point, it’s much harder than an injury to deal with.”
The top-performing athlete, who attended her first Olympics event this year, credited her “tight team” – her family, coach, physio and doctor - for helping her through her the challenging time.
Eliza told the New Zealand Herald she’d hadn’t really thought she’d end up a pole vaulter – that in fact, she’d had her hopes set on becoming a Silver Fern. But a friend’s introduction to decathlon when Eliza was just 14, she said, changed everything.
“It wasn’t my plan to be an Olympic pole vaulter, I just wanted to try it out, so I kept going with it. You don’t love it every single day but when it goes right, you can’t not love it.”
Watch youngest kiwi Olympian performing her gymnastics routine