Eliza McCartney on the turning point of her athletic career

It was during her final year of high school when Eliza McCartney found herself at a crossroads: go to university or chase a dream.

The promising pole vaulter had just won a bronze medal at the 2014 World Junior Championships, an achievement that made her realise the scale of her potential.

"I was the first medallist for New Zealand since Valerie Adams, so that made me feel incredibly honoured," she told Newshub.

"That was my last year of school, so it was like, 'Do I continue pursuing high-level sport, or go to university and maybe dial it down a little bit?'

"But that really made the decision a bit easier. It really opened my eyes just a little bit further."

Eliza McCartney on the turning point of her athletic career
Photo credit: Getty Images.

McCartney has excelled as a track and field athlete in the years since, taking home bronze at the both the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and this year's Commonwealth Games in the women's pole vault.

The 21-year-old revealed she is trying to psych herself out of any nerves ahead of the World Championships in September 2019 - as well as the Olympic Games mid-2020, which are coming up "incredibly fast".

"I am trying to not be nervous but I am getting quite excited," she told Newshub.

"You always want to have a bit of both, and I think nerves are great but I am trying to be really excited about the fact it's almost here because it just goes so fast."

To aid the star athlete's success off the track, she explained the team around her is crucial to her performance. 

She's had her family behind her, who always been encouraging and championing her every step of the way.

"I think the number one thing is having incredible support around you," she said.

"You're always going to have your parents, your family, whoever it is, that can pick you up - and I think [it's important] just being able to lean on them, and not feeling bad about it because they want to help."

Eliza McCartney on the turning point of her athletic career
Photo credit: Getty Images.

As her ability improved and promise heightened, High Performance New Zealand came on board, providing her with additional means to assist her journey. 

"I have people all the way from a nutritionist, to medical advice, to psychologist, to life adviser - so the support is something that makes the difference when you're really trying."

While looking ahead to her next competition, her lifestyle prioritises training and making the best choices for her body.

McCartney's diet predominately focuses around whole foods, so she does what she can to avoid anything processed.

"In terms of a whole diet I try to have lots of fruit, lots of veges; I have my meat, my carbs, lots of grains, all of those things - really, the word I go for is balance.

"I try to get as much variety as I can, and that's kind of my key. Then I try to avoid overly processed foods and very sugary foods, but in terms of eating whole food, I try and eat everything."

Eliza McCartney on the turning point of her athletic career
Photo credit: Getty Images.

She recently got behind the New Zealand Dental Associations Switch to Water challenge, encouraging Kiwis to swap sugary drinks for 30 days.

It's an initiative she has added her voice to, not just because of the positive effects it can have on teeth, but overall health.

"I stopped drinking them [fizzy drinks] years ago, because I was just horrified when I found out how much sugar was in them.

"You wouldn't grab a tablespoon and then just sit down and eat tablespoons of sugar that are in some of these drinks, but you would drink it.

"That really horrified me, so I haven't drank any in a long time."

Eliza McCartney on the turning point of her athletic career
Photo credit: Getty Images.

She believes making one little change at a time to a daily routine can be the catalyst for implementing healthier changes into your daily life, explaining: "You don't have to make drastic changes overnight."

But it's just not healthy living the former Takapuna Grammar School pupil places value on, but living life to its fullest potential in every possible sense.

After chasing her own dreams at being the best in her field, McCartney encourages others to identify the passions which bring happiness.

"I think it's really important to be following what you enjoy, because in the end that's what brings dedication and motivation and hard work. If you really love what you're doing, then you'll put in the hours.

"Whereas if you trying to make something work that your hearts not fully in, I think it's just too difficult - and you're just setting yourself up to fail really.

"You want to do something that you know love."