News & Updates

3 August 2022 • Track and Field

Imogen Ayris claims a wonderful pole vault bronze

(Photo: Alisha Lovrich)

Imogen Ayris, who no-heighted in qualification at the World Championships last month, bounced back in spectacular fashion to claim a brilliant bronze medal in the women’s pole vault at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to finish one place ahead of her fellow Kiwi Olivia McTaggart.

In a competition where several of the key contenders struggled to fire in challenging windy conditions, Imogen beautifully maintained her composure to match her season’s best with a first-time clearance of 4.45m and earn a spot on the podium.

Her training partner, Olivia, has flirted with danger at 4.45m requiring a third attempt to wriggle clear and although she cleared the same height as Imogen – she had to settle for fourth on countback. It was a performance which further illustrated the growing depth of women’s pole vaulting in New Zealand.

World Championship bronze medallist Nina Kennedy of Australia was crowned Commonwealth Games champion with a best of 4.60m. England’s Molly Caudery took the silver medal on countback from Imogen after also achieving 4.45m.

For Ayris, who was reportedly training impressively but who missed out on her opening height of 4.25m at the World Championships in Oregon, it was a magnificent achievement to make the podium.

On what made the difference between her performance today and what happened at the World Championships two weeks ago she said: “Confidence. I approached the champs very differently and it paid off. I knew exactly what I needed to do, I had a great two weeks of training behind me, and I knew I was capable.

“The bar rattled at 4.45m but I knew with the way I jumped, it would stay on, although it is always nerve wracking.

“It is hard (to win a medal) when it comes down to a team-mate (Olivia) missing a height but for me to sneak in there and win a medal is excellent.”

“It is so special (to climb the podium). After my dad (Barny) passed two years ago I promised I’d make him proud, and I feel that I have done more than that today.”

With England’s Olympic bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw entered but opting not to start and defending champion Alysha Newman of Canada retiring through injury after a best of 4.25m the competition opened up new possibilities.

Imogen started nervously requiring a second time clearance at her opening height of 4.25m but her success seemed to bring about a fresh wave of confidence. The Jeremy McColl-coached athlete cleared 4.35m at the first time of asking and Olivia matched the achievement as both Kiwis settled into the competition.

With five women clear at 4.35m, the next height of 4.45m proved critical in determining the medallists. Olivia missed out with her first attempt but Imogen, looking calm and composed, wriggled clear with her first vault despite rattling the bar – a performance which suddenly placed the Kiwi firmly in the medal picture. Olivia responded with a second-time clearance at 4.45m and after Canadian Anicka Newell bowed out after three fouls only four women advanced to 4.50m – Kennedy, Caudrey and the two Kiwis – with at least one New Zealander guaranteed precious metal.

Olivia made two out of three very good attempts at 4.50m – dislodging the bar twice on her way back down but found that height beyond her today. Imogen also could not quite match her PB of 4.50m today but gained a much cherished and unexpected podium spot to ensure New Zealand wins a second successive Commonwealth medal in women’s pole vault after Eliza McCartney won silver at Gold Coast 2018.

Olivia McTaggart, who improved on her ninth-place finish at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, said: “I wanted to enjoy it out there, and I definitely did. I am proud of fourth place.

On her training partner Imogen edging her to snare bronze she said: “She (Olivia) put in out there when it mattered and cleared that clutch first attempt (at 4.45m). At the end of the day in pole vault those attempts on the countback really did make a difference, she got it and I’m really proud of her.”

New Zealand will be hunting more medals at the Alexander Stadium on Thursday 4 August when a trio of Kiwis compete. Times NZ.

6.00am – Hamish Kerr – Men’s High Jump Final

6.35am – Zoe Hobbs – Women’s 100m semi-finals

7.05am – Maddi Wesche – Women’s shot put

8.45am – Zoe Hobbs* – Women’s 100m final

*Should Zoe qualify