Eleanor Patterson is joined by her high-jumping friend and Australian rival Nicola McDermott on the biggest female team to leave Australian shores


LEONGATHA’S Eleanor Patterson is going to the Olympics.

The Australian Olympic Committee made it official this week, on Monday, July 5.

She was named to compete in the Women’s High Jump together with her friend and closest rival Nicola McDermott.

The pair both broke the Australian record in the past 12 months, Patterson clearing 1.99 metres in 2020 and then McDermott going over the psychological barrier of 2.00 metres during a match race with Patterson, who succumbed to injury earlier this year.

They join a team of 472 athletes to compete in Tokyo, including the biggest contingent of women 254 to leave our shores. There are also 218 men.

As well as being the biggest number of women ever on an away team for Australia it’s the highest percentage of women on an Australian Team (53.8%).

This is also the second largest Team ever to leave Australia’s shores, just short of the 482 athletes who competed in the Athens Games in 2004.

The Team for Tokyo will compete in 33 sports, including fielding athletes in all four new Olympic sports – karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.

Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman paid tribute to all the selected athletes who have endured the uncertainties of a one-year postponement, disrupted competitions, qualifying opportunities and access to training venues.

“This has been extremely difficult for every athlete and each has their own individual story to tell. But they have made it. Through their determination and commitment, they are going to Tokyo.

“Even before these Games are declared Open on July 23rd, this Australian Team has made its own history. They are a special Team and Australians can be very proud of them.

“I would also like to pay tribute to those athletes for whom the postponement and global environment prevented them from being a part of this Team. Whether that’s through injury and retirement, lack of safe access to qualification events or through difficult personal circumstances, many have been forced to make that tough call.

“I can promise these athletes that this Team carries their legacy and their contributions in their hearts all the way to Tokyo and into the heat of Olympic competition.”

Eleanor’s story

Fast Facts: sport athletics, event high jump, Olympic history Rio 2016, highlights Gold 2014 Commonwealth Games, coach Alex Stewart, year born 1996, state born Sydney, NSW.

About Eleanor: Eleanor Patterson’s start in athletics came when she was eight years old, after a sleepover at a friend’s place. She accompanied her friend to Little Athletics and fell in love with the sport.

Patterson grew up in Leongatha where she could only train on a grass track, as the closest synthetic facility was an hour away, but her teacher at St Laurence O’Toole Primary School noted her passion for athletics and encouraged her.

Patterson told Athletics Australia that London 2012 Olympian Kaila McKnight (1500m) was an inspiration for her as McKnight lived in the local district. Seeing her compete at the top level, coming from a small country town, helped Patterson believe it was possible for her to do so too.

At 13, Patterson was already winning national high jump titles. She became prominent when she won gold at the 2013 World Youth (U18) Championship in Donetsk, Ukraine. Later that year she broke the World U18 record clearing 1.96m. She followed this with Gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games while completing her final year of schooling, with a clearance of 1.94m.

Her amazing international record continued at the Beijing 2015 World Championships, when Patterson placed eighth to become the first Australian female in 24 years to make the high jump final.

Selected for her Olympic debut in Rio 2016, she cleared 1.89m and missed qualification for the final. In 2017 she declined selection for the world championships and in 2018 missed selection for the Commonwealth Games, where she would have been defending champion.

Out of high jumping for a time, she remerged in the latter part of 2019.

She had relocated to Sydney to train with Alex Stewart.

“He welcomed me into his squad and has fostered me and allowed me to grow not only as an athlete but more importantly as a person,” she said.

In late 2019, Patterson cleared a promising 1.90m but missed selection for the 2019 World Championships, then in the summer of 2020, she was in incredible form, leaping 1.96m, 1.96m and 1.94m, ahead of breaking the Australian record with a clearance of 1.99m in Wellington New Zealand.

Due to injury, she made a late start to her 2021 campaign, clearing 1.87m in her season debut in March. In June in European she was in terrific form clearing heights of 1.93m, 1.94m and 1.96m.

Eleanor will compete at her second Olympic Games in Tokyo, representing Australia in the high jump.

Eleanor’s father Mark Patterson of Leongatha said his daughter has been training in Europe prior to the games and “absolutely loving it”.

“They’ve been based in Italy with a few others plus the coach and have gone all over, competing in different events,” said Mark.

“From what I understand they’re in good form and have done pretty well.”

Both Eleanor and Nicole are ranked in the top 10 this year and have real hopes of making the final and, on any given day, reaching the podium.

The Qualifying Round for the Women’s High Jump will be held on Thursday, August 5 with the final on Saturday, August 7. Both Eleanor and Nicole go with the best wishes of the South Gippsland district.

After an injury setback early in 2021, Eleanor Patterson has been in good form training in Italy prior to the games.