London News & Search
The Olympic experience last year?
That was great.
But the results?
It’s clear two weeks out from the world track and field championships in London, England, that qualifying round road bump in Brazil still grates on Alysha Newman’s nerves.
“I didn’t make the Rio finals and that hurt me so bad because I should’ve been there,” the 23-year-old Canadian pole vault star said Thursday. “I put way too much pressure on myself.
“But I learned from it. I’m going to worlds and I’ll treat it like the Olympics. It’s all the same girls there and I want to make that final.
“I feel confident, and then on the day of the final, anything can happen.”
First, the Delaware native and former Mother Teresa Spartan will try her luck Saturday evening in the parking lot just south of Budweiser Gardens.
That’s where Vault London — the successor to the ingenious Vault the Park event on Central Avenue near Victoria Park during Ribfest a year ago — has been moved. Back then, Newman established a Canadian record mark of 4.61 metres, a milestone she improved by clearing 4.71m earlier this year during a meet at her University of Miami alma mater.
“It’s crazy we can take track and bring it to the street like this,” she said. “People can literally be walking (down by the Covent Garden Market), then stop and watch this incredible thing with people flying over 15 (feet) through the air.
“Last year was my first time really vaulting like that where I was born and raised. School meets during the day, not many can come watch that. It allows you to connect to people, who ask questions, and it motivated me to put on a show and have them realize this is what I do day-in, day out.”
The elite women’s division, which starts at 6 p.m., should turn into a showdown between Newman and 35-year-old American Jenn Suhr, the Olympic champ at the 2012 London Games. The Canadian upstart topped the longtime standout at a meet in Boston last month.
“More than anything, it meant a lot to be consistent at 4.60m this year, to clear that more than once,” Newman said. “That’s a big step for me. Last year, I was consistent over (4.40m), so you can see my improvement.
“I was happy because I won. Every time you go to an event, everyone wants to be No. 1.”
So many factors go into the pursuit to become the best in the world at something.
The first is believing it will happen with every fibre of your being. Then, it’s assembling a team behind you to help you get over the bar you set.
After finishing university, Newman relocated to the Toronto area to be close to her training home at Bolton Pole Vault.
Her current coaches are Wingham native Doug Wood, who held the Canadian men’s pole vault record for 25 years until Shawn Barber topped him in 2014, and Zeke Krykora, Wood’s old mentor.
“They had a good group of guys for about 10 years, six to eight of them all jumping over five metres, which is really strong, especially in Canada,” Newman said, “but everyone fell off, grew up and started having children. So Doug and Zeke just started back into coaching, decided to start a club (recently) and I joined them, first for two months during my NCAA career, and now that school’s finished, full-time.”
That’s possible largely because she inked a deal with famous brand Nike to become one of their funded athletes. That was a game-changer.
“The biggest moment of my life was qualifying for the Olympics,” she said, “but I would have to say (Nike) was second. Growing up, I knew this is what I wanted, but now that you’re older, you have bills and things to pay. I was always a supporter of Nike — I loved their shoes and clothing — and now to get an annual salary from them, it’s mind-blowing.
“This is my job now and, if I jump well, I can design my own salary cap. If you’re not doing well, you’re going to get fired or have a salary decrease. People get upset because things can happen, but it’s a business — and if you’re injured, you’ve got to get healthy so you can compete.”
On her trajectory, she’s not getting fired anytime soon.
London News & Search