One year later, Alysha Newman still gets goosebumps talking about her Olympic debut.
Despite her victory in the women’s pole vault at the Canadian Olympic trials a month earlier with a jump of 4.40 metres, a 22-year-old Newman was extremely tense upon her arrival in Rio de Janeiro, marking the beginning of her emotional experience.
The night before her event, the London, Ont., native was filled with anxiety, unsure if she should leave her smartphone on airplane mode and concerned if she did, whether the alarm set for 5 a.m. would go off.
Newman left the phone on vibrate. Big mistake. “I was shocked at the number of people texting me,” she recalled.
Newman shook off a broken sleep, enjoyed a great warmup the next day at Maracana Stadium and cleared 4.45 on her first attempt. But her body didn’t feel right.
“I almost relaxed, thinking, ‘I’m good, I got this.’ But I was too relaxed, jumped the gun and my head already had me in the final,” Newman remembered. She went on to miss all three attempts at 4.45.
“I knew I was done,” said Newman, who failed to make the final and finished 17th overall. “I felt so confident. For some reason, at 4.45, the adrenalin let go. I will never forget that feeling and will never look ahead until there is a ‘Q’ for qualified beside my name.”
Now 23, a more confident and improved Newman will get her chance at redemption starting Friday in the qualifying round of the track and world championships at London Stadium in England, with the final Sunday (CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET). She missed the 2015 worlds with stress fractures in each foot.
Since Rio, Newman has made adjustments on the runway to create more pole speed and better recover energy out of the pole that has led to her clearing 4.65 six times by her count this season, her first as a professional.
Another reason for Newman’s consistency and success on the Diamond League circuit and elsewhere in 2017 is her return to Canada after finishing school at the University of Miami. It’s the first time Bolton pole vault coach Doug Wood has worked full-time with Newman in their four years together.
Wood, who ranks second all-time in Canada in men’s pole vault behind defending world champion Shawn Barber with a lifetime best 5.65, is seeing the rewards…