In August 2016, sporting enthusiasts sat glued to their couches from dusk ‘til dawn to watch two weeks of the Rio Olympics. They revelled in the amazing triumphs, and wallowed in the bitter defeats, of our athletes.
But there was one Aussie athlete who didn’t even make it to Rio after an injury in April robbed her of the chance to represent her country at the highest level.
Pole vaulter Liz Parnov fractured her tibia during training at the WA Institute of Sport, shattering her Olympic dream The years of blood, sweat and tears had all been for nothing.
Just a week earlier she had been crowned champion at the Australian Athletics Championships in Sydney.
But rather than sulking about it, Parnov moved quickly to get on with career. Just days after the incident, she was on the operating table having six screws and a plate inserted in the broken bone.
Come the end of April, she was back at training, lifting weights and pushing her upper body strength to an all-time high.
Parnov’s recovery didn’t go particularly smoothly. One of the screws came out the side of the tibia, causing extreme irritation. She was told she had to wait until October to have the metal removed.
“The more load I put through my leg thanks to running and jumping, the sorer it is. So it’s one of those things that I unfortunately have to get done, so we’re all trying to get it done as quickly as possible so there’s no more bumps along the way,” Parnov says.
Parnov’s junior career was extremely successful. She was the flag bearer at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, and won a silver medal. She also won silver at the 2011 World Youth Championships, and at the 2012 World Junior Championships.
Pole vaulting is an obsession in the Parnov family. Liz’s sister Vicky is a pole vaulter, and their father has an impressive coaching track record, working with the likes of 2001 World Champion Dimitri Markov and Olympic Gold medalist Steve Hooker. Liz’s aunt is Tatiana Grigorieva – an Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist.
Despite missing out on Rio, Parnov competed in the London Olympic Games aged just 18, backing up two years later at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. She describes the experience as being surreal.
“When you’re there, it’s literally a whole other world, and it’s almost indescribable,” she says.
“It’s like an out-of-body experience. It is really full on.”
When discussing the pressures placed on athletes, Parnov says she wishes the media could understand what Olympians go through.
“Not only are we athletes, we are human, we’re emotional creatures and beings, we have feelings too,” she says.
She says it “grinds her gears” when the media demand a certain number of gold medals.
“I think the media also has to understand that we are good, but the world is catching up to us,” she says.
“Every other country is learning off of us, seeing the way we train, and they’re not idiots, they’re going to figure out our methods pretty quickly.”
For the next 12 months, Parnov’s focus will be on the 2017 World Championships in London and then he 2018 Commonwealth Games.
She hopes to hit peak form by then, so that she can put in her best performance in Australia.
But the Gold Coast games are still a long way off – and the world will change considerably over the next 18 months.