Eleanor Patterson has soared into medal contention for the Tokyo Olympics after breaking the 31-year-old Australian women’s high jump record at a track and field meet in New Zealand.
Patterson went over the bar at 1.99m, bettering the previous national mark of 1.98m set by Vanessa Ward in 1989 and equalled five years later by Alison Inverarity.
It continued a hugely impressive return to elite-level competition for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games champion, who almost gave the sport away two years ago after missing out on selection for the Gold Coast Games.
But she has gone from strength to strength since linking up with new coach Alex Stewart, whose stable also includes Australian men’s high jump record holder Brandon Starc.
“I felt really ready, ready to go, and I felt pretty fresh,” said Patterson, who also had three unsuccessful attempts at 2.01m at the Capital Classic meet in Wellington.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a competition and especially here it can be windy.
“Over the last three competitions of the season I’ve had continuous attempts at PBs so I knew it was within my range.”
The 23-year-old paid tribute to her great domestic rival Nicola McDermott who again pushed her hard on Friday before finishing second with 1.96m.
“It’s phenomenal that Nicola is there with me each and every jump and we’re able to push each other,” Patterson said.
“That we’re able to be such a force for each other to go to the new heights and feel what is to come in the world and the year ahead, an Olympic year, what the competitions will be like.”
Only seven female jumpers cleared 2m or better last year and the 2019 world leader, Mariya Lasitskene (2.06m), may well not get the chance to compete in Tokyo due to the suspension imposed on the Russian athletics federation for systemic doping.
The other standout Australian performance in Wellington came from 2019 world championships finalist Matthew Denny, who added four centimetres to his discus PB with a throw of 65.47m.