Last year Nina Kennedy’s career had crashed. She had bottomed out in Tokyo at the Olympics, finishing 12th after barely clearing a training height. She was shattered.
Twelve months to the day she is now the Commonwealth gold medallist, two weeks after also becoming the third-best pole vaulter in the world by winning bronze at the world championships.
Nina Kennedy won pole vault gold.Credit:Getty
It has been a stunning turnaround.
“I am so proud of myself. I was mentally quite flat after the worlds, I had done such a great job and to come here and repeat such a big effort was hard so I am really proud of myself,” Kennedy said.
“It’s incredible, with Tokyo last year I was at the bottom of my whole career so to come third in the whole world and first in the Commonwealth is incredible.”
But winning gold wasn’t enough. She chased a record not just a medal.
Nina Kennedy also had a crack at the Commonwealth Games record in Birmingham.Credit:AP
Winning had almost looked too easy. She won gold clearing the bar at 4.6m – the same height she cleared when she won bronze on the Gold Coast four years ago – then told the officials to put the bar up to 4.76m, a centimetre above the Commonwealth record.
“It was really, really tricky out there with the wind, I think that is why lots of the girls didn’t jump as high as they would have liked. The conditions were super tricky but I got the gold and I thought why not? Let’s go for that record,” she said.
The weather started to conspire against her with a cool wind blowing up gusty and strong. Her coach, Paul Burgess, was urging her to have a crack.
“He was like ‘come on, you can do it’ and I was like ‘really? Do I have to?’ No, it was fine: the crowd all got around it so I was just trying to soak it in.”
She wanted more but winning her first championship gold would have to be enough for the 25-year-old West Australian when she ran through her first attempt and aborted her next two mid-jump. She wasn’t complaining.
After England’s Holly Bradshaw was a late withdrawal her biggest threat coming into the meet — 2018 gold medallist Canada’s Alysha Newman — was in all manner of trouble. She cleared a low height then at 4.35m ran through the mat twice and retired injured.
It appeared Kennedy could win gold here without having to go too high. The wind was playing havoc.
For context four years ago she cleared 4.6m and only won bronze. Here she cleared the same height and won gold. A fortnight ago in Oregon she jumped 4.80 to win bronze.
With the bar up to 4.45m she again floated over the height and moved into the gold position before passing when the bar was raised to 4.5m.
All the other four women remaining missed at the height meaning Kennedy was guaranteed gold on countback even if she didn’t clear a new height. She waved the bar off at 4.55m and had it put up to 4.60m. She cleared it with her second attempt.
“Pole vault is a really interesting sport like that you can play some mind games some tactics with the passing and what not but all the girls out there are so lovely we had a great time,” Kennedy said.
“Each year changes what wins gold and I was going for that gold tonight and I got it.”
Meanwhile, Taneille Crase is sitting in third position midway through the heptathlon after winning the opening 100m hurdles and finishing second in the 200m.
Taryn Gollshewsky finished fourth in the women’s discus with her best effort 56.85m.
Get all the latest news from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games here. We’ll be live blogging the action from 4pm-10am daily.
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