High jump star Nicola McDermott, who has Croatian heritage, has become the first Australian woman to break the two-metre barrier.
Nicola, who will compete in her first Olympic Games this year, achieved something no other Australian woman has managed to achieve on Sunday when she cleared 2.00m at the Australian Track and Field Championships in Sydney.
The 24-year-old not only set a national record, but she also beat the previous Oceania record of 1.99m set by Eleanor Patterson in February 2020.
“In landing on the bags I didn’t see anything before I heard the roar of the crowd, it was as if time stopped as I looked at the bar still standing. The jump was just as I’d visualised for years. It had finally become a reality. I’d broken the 2m barrier,” she said after the record jump.
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The proud Australian is also proud of her Croatian roots.
“My mother’s maiden name is Marinovic, both of her parents (my grandparents) were born and raised in Blato (Korcula) and moved to Sydney after WW2 for the new opportunities Australia presented. My Baba helped raise me as a child, so every day we eat Croatian food, talk to our relatives on the phone and embraced the Croatian culture whilst living in Australia. I am very connected to my roots which makes this competition very special to me,” Nicola explained to us earlier.
Nicola visited Blato for the first time in 2016 and always makes sure to visit her relatives on the island when she is in Europe competition in the season.
“I am very close to my family members who live in Prigadica which is a short drive from Blato. I love this place from the relaxed lifestyle on the water, as well as the beautiful community there. When I visit my family they usually go fishing, and one of my favourite meals is the fish cooked on the wood fire barbecue with spinach, potatoes and salad. I could eat that every day,” she said.
Nicola, who competed in Zagreb for the first time in September 2020, is another in a growing list of talented Australian sportspeople with Croatian heritage.
“I believe the Croatian genetics gives an advantage to the physique for many sports due to the height, however, I think the theory can extend also to the Croatian lifestyle being very well acquainted for successful athletes. We learn to work hard, value family and honour the community that we’re placed in – so If that is partnered with talent I believe is a good equation for sports,” Nicola thinks.
One of Nicola’s idols in the sport is retired Croatian high jump star Blanka Vlasic.
“I haven’t met her In person so far since I arrived on the international high jump scene after the Rio Olympics in 2016, yet I am confident there will be a day when that will happen and be a blessing.”
Nicola is now looking forward to her first Olympic Games in Tokyo.
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“My dream in being able to break the National Record also doubled with winning the National title, which meant on Sunday I officially qualified for my first Olympic team. Athletics Australia then last night presented me the Performance of the Meet in honour of Betty Cuthbert.”