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Track and Field

Back in competition mode, Alysha Newman eyes victory in new pole vault event

The bar: Set high by the men's competition. Their mission: Raise it even higher. Three of the leading women's pole vaulters, including Canada's Alysha Newman, get their turn to compete Saturday in the second edition of the Ultimate Garden Clash.

Live stream the Ultimate Garden Clash on Saturday at noon ET on CBCSports.ca

Canada's Alysha Newman, seen above at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, will compete against Greece's Katerina Stefanidi and American Katie Nageotte in the Ultimate Garden Clash on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca. (Dita Alangkara/The Associated Press)

The bar: Set high by the men's competition. Their mission: Raise it even higher.

Three of the leading women's pole vaulters, including Canada's Alysha Newman, get their turn to compete Saturday in the second edition of the Ultimate Garden Clash. It's a rare track and field competition contested during the coronavirus pandemic.

Individually, Commonwealth Games champion Newman, reigning Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, two-time U.S. indoor winner Katie Nageotte and will compete head-to-head-to-head to see who can clear a bar set at 4 metres the most times in 30 minutes.

"It puts us in the competition, that adrenaline mode, which is what I've been missing that entire time. But also, it's one of those things I'm going in like raw turkey. I don't really know what to expect. I've never competed like this or tried to jump hardcore for 30 minutes," Newman told CBC Sports' Jacqueline Doorey.

WATCH | Newman shows how she'll compete at UGC:

Alysha Newman shows how she'll compete in an international event, at home

Sports

1 year ago
3:22
The Canadian pole vaulter explains her pole vault set up and how competing allows her to give back during quarantine. 3:22

Watch the women's Ultimate Garden Clash live at CBCSports.ca on Saturday at noon ET.

Collectively, the women will try to better the total of their male counterparts, who had a combined 98 clearances in a competition on May 3.

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Mondo Duplantis and Renaud Lavillenie shared the victory with 36 clearances over a bar set at 5 metres, while Sam Kendricks had 26 in an event that was staged in each of their backyards.

"I texted Sam and I talked to Renaud just to ask them how they were and they were like 'you're gonna be exhausted,' so I'm mentally preparing that everyone's going to feel that way," Newman said,

WATCH | Highlights from men's Ultimate Garden Clash:

Duplantis, Lavillenie share gold medal in Ultimate Garden Clash 

Sports

1 year ago
5:11
Pole vault stars Renaud Lavillenie, Mondo Duplantis and Sam Kendricks hold a competition in their own backyards. 5:11

Unlike the men's version, the women don't have the same sort of setups in their backyards. Instead, they will be connected by video link from their local nearby training facilities. Newman will compete from Bolton, Ont.; Stefanidi will from Athens; and Nageotte in Marietta, Ga.

The women are envisioning 100 combined clearances. Sandi Morris, the Olympic silver medallist from the U.S. who recently built her own pole vault setup, won't take part due to a knee ailment that's sidelined her for two weeks.

"The girls are coming together to say we gotta beat them. So we want to at least do between 33-37 per person, so that would obviously beat them, but at the end of the day too, we want to push each other and then we want to win and we want to beat the guys," Newman said.

Stefanidi, the gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, agreed with Newman's assessment.

"I feel like most people would expect the guys to win in a head-to-head, so if they did, it won't mean too much. But I think the way this is designed it is very possible — or at least just as likely — that we beat them, either as a group, or individually," Stefanidi said.

She added with a laugh: "The reason it is important to win is so that we can have bragging rights for the rest of our careers."

Not your normal competition

The competition is weather permitting — and Newman may have to bundle up, though the weather forecast for Saturday is promising.

Another obstacle ahead of the Ultimate Garden Clash for the competitors is re-training their body for an event that's more endurance-based than usual.

"I had to tap back in to being like 'OK, I got a meet. I'm eating healthy, I'm eating clean, I'm not staying up as late, I'm getting more into a routine,' so that I can prepare to set myself up for the best success at that end of the week," Newman said.

"You just try to do everything properly where before it was just like 'Oh I can go do like a three- or four-hour workout no problem.'"

The new format also means less time for athletes to gather themselves between misses. And if the bar does fall, then only the competitor can reset it, costing her valuable time within the 30-minute allotment.

"At the end of the day I think trying to make the least amount of mistakes as possible, but being able to really take deep breaths between each jump to try to not make mistakes is no. 1 in the strategy I'm going with," Newman said.

No time for rest

The first instalment of the Ultimate Garden Clash was a hit, with more than 1 million people from more than 90 countries watching the broadcast within 24 hours, according to World Athletics.

"We know there's a real appetite among athletes and fans to return to competition," World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. "But we need to do that in a way that is careful and respectful of the measures put in place by public health authorities around the world so we can keep our community safe, and modern technology has allowed us to do that."

The men's pole vault competition provided a blueprint for the women — go all out for 30 minutes. There's no time for a rest.

"At the end of the day it's not a normal competition but we want to spice someone's Saturday up too. Besides us pushing ourselves and trying to stay in jumping shape, we're also doing this for everyone else too," Newman said.

With files from The Associated Press

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