Patterson, Samuels deliver fields of gold
Year 12 student and high jumper Eleanor Patterson and discus champion Dani Samuels claimed Australia's first gold medals in the field events on day nine of the Games.PT1M35S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3d0jb 620 349 August 2, 2014
Eleanor Patterson is 18. She is doing year 12 at school in the Gippsland town of Leongatha. She is the Commonwealth high jump gold medallist.
Australia has not won a Commonwealth gold medal in women’s high jump in 20 years, now it has a schoolgirl champion.
“I didn't realise (I had won). The event goes so fast I didn't realise I had it and then my coach is telling me I've won and I was like, ‘What?! No! ‘So it still doesn't feel real that's for sure,” she said.
Eleanor Patterson is the first Australian gold medallist in this event since 1994. Photo: James Brickwood
The quiet schoolgirl managed a sneaky smile when told she had won gold … then she set about jumping again, just because that’s the bit she likes most about this whole athletics in a stadium thing. Not the crowds, not the attention, just the jumping.
“I would have liked to have jumped higher but I'm happy with the gold for sure,” said Patterson who jumped 1.94m to claim gold.
She set a personal best 1.96m this year as a 17-year-old, a height which remains better than any junior woman in the world has ever jumped.
Teen spirit: Eleanor Patterson skipped the Junior World Championships to compete in Glasgow. Photo: Getty Images
Patterson is the athlete without a track. Her coach Dave Green picks her up several times a week and the pair drive through the streets of Leongatha in country Victoria looking for an empty oval to throw down some mats. Eleanor then jumps - very high - over a bar onto the mats.
This rudimentary grounding could either have left her desperately under-prepared for the overwhelming difference of a full stadium of 40,000 people on the other side of the world, or absolutely prepared. It proved the latter. The simplicity of her mat-in-a-park training left her completely unflustered by the idea of crowds.
“It’s that white line (fever) when she is on the track she is there to do a job and she can focus very well, it’s quite incredible how she can do it at that age,” said her dad Mark, who was in the stands watching as his daughter effortlessly did what she came to do.
Eleanor betrayed no hint of concern at the attention. A shy girl she pulled her long hair across her face, fixed her expression and walked about the track
“It's been an amazing experience, so new but so amazing, it's huge … it’s so much bigger than what I've experienced before but I had to stay calm and I managed to pull through,” she said.
After easing over at 1.86m and again 1.89m she missed her first attempt at 1.92m and so dropped into second place behind England’s Isobel Pooley. But when she cleared 1.94m at first attempt she was demanding something special to beat her. She held on for gold.
“It's so huge in the sense of the crowd and the atmosphere it's harder to keep your cool I guess and I just had to relax and pretend it was like any other comp. I was nervous at the start but once I got into it I was perfectly fine and got in the zone,” she said.
“I didn't realise (I had won), I still don't know. I'm not much for crowds. I'm a really quiet person so I just wanted to hug my family and my coaches.”
There were certainly enough family in the stands to hug, she had brought most of Leongatha it seemed. Her mum Helen, dad Mark , sister Matilda, two aunts, her nanna, her coach, his wife all gathered. At home were two more brothers huddled around the television at “quite a big family do - it’s a fairly big extended family, according to Mark.
“They're all amazing I love them,” Eleanor said.
Her Dad added: “It’s very exciting as a family it has been a long time coming now it seems a bit surreal that it is all done with and she has achieved her goal.”
Next week - or soon after - Patterson will return home and have to turn her mind to studies again as she tries to finish her year 12.
“Oh I know. It's going to be hard to get my mind back into it but I guess I'll just have to,” she said.
Patterson could have jumped at the world juniors this year but decided instead to jump at the Commonwealth level reasoning that while it has fewer countries involved they were open age and that is the step for her to take to jump as an adult. The next step is the world championships next year and Rio beyond.
“It makes me hungrier, I just want to jump higher and who knows what could come,” she said.
Rio? “That's too far ahead. I’ve just got to get back home and get into my studies again and I just can't wait to jump higher.
And getting home to Leongatha?
“Oh my God it's going to be huge”.