The Gold Coast Games’ missing golden girl
Partly too it is the fact that she has been jumping since Glasgow trying to carry with her over the bar the weight of expectation. It has been a burden she has not worn lightly.
Four years ago Patterson was not just an athlete who was the best of the old empire she was an athlete, like Sally Pearson before her, ready to use that as the stepping stone to take on and beat the best in the world.
As a junior she had jumped higher than any female of her age ever in the world. Ever. Let that sink in for a bit when you think of how good she was and why she carried hope for where her talent could take her. It is incidentally a hope not dashed by missing one Commonwealth Games.
Things were always going to be different after Glasgow. She has always been a slightly aloof figure in athletics, diffident despite her ability. She has resisted the interest of the world that wanted to know her better and expected more of her.
Throughout, Dave has been her coach and mentor. They formed a duo quietly training in Leongatha and resisting repeated overtures to move from south Gippsland up to the city to train. Green took her to her high in Glasgow and has shepherded her throughout.
“Did it come too easy to her?” Dave wondered. “Not too easy maybe but she achieved a lot when she was young and it came early.
“She was good at an early age and she has had to carry that on her shoulders since and that expectation all the time and it depends on the animal sometimes, but (for some) it becomes too much. It’s a combination of many things for her.
“She is just a bit inconsistent. I think it is just a phase she is going through but she is working on a lot of things. I compare it to football and you are a Dead-eye Dick and then the next thing you suddenly keep missing and you are not sure why.”
That sounds like the yips? “It’s a bit like that,” he said.
“It’s like football. Can she do things better? No doubt. Little things, the one percenters they talk about in football, it’s the same thing in high jump. That’s the areas she needs to keep working on. Training is not the issue, she trains hard and does everything right at training.”
Eleanor is not a party girl. He is not alluding to that sort of behaviour away from training. It’s just the little stuff of an elite athlete, whether it’s diet or rest those things she has not done.
Clearly Eleanor was not in peak shape when she jumped at the nationals recently. She looked heavier than when she was at her best four years ago.
“She is not in the condition she was in when she was jumping bigger, everyone can see that,” Green said.
“We are in a power and weight sport and your condition is important. She is getting all the help under the sun it’s a matter of now following through. The ball is in her court really.
“For me I have got to be patient. We have been patient for a long time and we have to stay patient. She knows what she has to do. You do not lose your talent.”
Eleanor has moved out of the family home in Leongatha and into a house in Inverloch 20 minutes away. She has floated between mainly casual jobs that gave her the flexibility to train.
So she will be at home in Inverloch when the Commonwealth Games are on. She didn’t get a qualifier and didn’t win Nationals. They could have mounted an appeal to argue to take the discretionary pick but Dave and Eleanor didn’t see the point.
“Would she have done any good? She might have pulled one out of the hat but the way it’s been going probably not,” he said.
“There’s no good appealing like others did. You should not have to plead and carry on to get in the team, it should be just a done thing by the qualifier, if you are good enough they pick you.
“You could say ‘but we will be OK by April’, but we don’t know that.”
If winning gold created a mental burden for an athlete so young to deal with then perhaps the opposite could prove true from her missing the team now.
“Is this the kick in the gut she needs? I don’t know. Maybe not making the team will take the pressure off her now and she can just go back to jumping, maybe this is the silver lining,” he said.
Michael Gleeson is a senior AFL football writer and Fairfax Media’s athletics writer. He also covers tennis, cricket and other sports. He won the AFL Players Association Grant Hattam Trophy for excellence in journalism for the second time in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2014 Quill Awards for best sports feature writer. He was also a finalist in the 2014 Australian Sports Commission awards for his work on ‘Boots for Kids’. He is a winner of the AFL Media Association award for best news reporter and a two-time winner of Cricket Victoria’s cricket writer of the year award. Michael has covered multiple Olympics, Commonwealth Games and world championships and 15 seasons of AFL, He has also written seven books – five sports books and two true crime books.
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