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Patterson’s leap from dark place to glory

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Ian Chadband / AAP News

 

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist continues her sterling 2022 season with silver at the world indoor championships.

Eleanor Patterson has made the leap from a dark place to the podium at a world championships and it’s made her feel like an athlete reborn.

When the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist achieved her high jump holy grail of a two-metre clearance en route to winning silver at the world indoor championships on Saturday, the Leongatha leaper couldn’t help but reflect on a remarkable roller-coaster journey.

“Not so linear,” she called it wryly in Belgrade, when recalling a voyage of rediscovery that four years ago began with her quitting the sport, disillusioned and unhappy.

But Patterson said it’s how she’s negotiated this bumpy ride that now makes her feel incredibly proud of herself.

And she’s positive it can be a springboard for her to soar to new heights at the Commonwealth Games and world outdoor championships this year.

“I feel like I have a new, reborn love for this sport, such a respect for this sport,” she said.

In 2018, the girl who’d won Commonwealth gold as a teenager jumped away from athletics, because it was simply giving her no joy.

“It took me a whole year to wrap my head around the thought that I was finished,” she said.

“I wasn’t training, I was in a dark place in a way, I wasn’t happy.

“So I had to make my way in life.

“I worked in a primary school, in learning support and disability care.

” I loved the work, but somehow I knew I wasn’t finished in athletics and that I could jump big again.”

The nagging thought prompted her to contact Alex Stewart because she had a sense he’d be the coach who could inspire her.

“When I returned in 2019 and started work with him, we were essentially starting again from scratch. I hadn’t stepped into a gym or gone on a track for a year,” Patterson said.

“I had a lot to work on and since then I’ve also had injuries to contend with over the last two years.”

It had, though, been what she called a “beautiful journey” with Stewart and one not finished yet.

Injury-free since finishing fifth in the Olympics, Patterson said she could have a big year, one which will doubtless feature a fascinating sub-plot — the battle for domestic supremacy with Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Nicola McDermott.

“This could be a game-changer for me,” she said.

“Two metres is always this elusive barrier in high jump. I’ve been attempting it countless times since I was 17 or 18, so to finally get it is a very special feeling.

“It’s a very big year with worlds and Commonwealth Games, so it’s great to be coming into form with this ahead of me after such a tumultuous career.

“I just love this sport and competing in these environments with such incredible athletes. It’s a joy.”

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