The Olympic Games was pretty much exactly what I expected. I had been given so much advice about what to expect in terms of the scale of the village and the vibe of The Games. It definitely lived up to expectations. The competition itself was probably the only exception, because it was absolutely incredible and was more than I expected. The energy and atmosphere that I experienced when I stepped out onto the track for the first time was unforgettable. The atmosphere was electric and the crowd was deafening. Loved every second of it out there and hopefully there are more moments like that to come. The whole experience of being able to do what I love on the highest stage was beyond incredible for me.
In hindsight I was very happy with my performance considering the less than ideal lead up. I went from the World U20 championships a month before, straight to the Olympics. It was a big step up with only limited preparation. I managed to clear my second best height of 5.60m on my third attempt in the qualifying round, which was enough to be placed 15th overall. I’m only 19, so I was just happy to be out there and learning from the experience. Everyone that competes at a high level would understand that even though I was happy to be selected to compete, there was that little thought in the back of my head that knew I could have done better. I would have loved to make the final and jump a new PB on the day but that wasn't the case. I was still really happy with my performance considering this was my first experience at that level of competition.
I remember sitting back down after my final attempt at 5.70m (which unfortunately I missed) at the end of the comp. I looked up into the crowd and at my coach and I thought to myself 'pole vault is for me'. I really had been guessing whether I could make it to the highest level as a pole vaulter but after such an amazing experience being amongst the top pole vaulters around the world, I realised that this sport is for me. I really do enjoy doing it and I do live for my sport and even though an emphasis is on winning, this was one of the best moments in my life where I hadn't won. Deep down inside I felt I was a winner.
I believe that after experiencing The Games and being around older, more experienced and really dedicated athletes I have learnt a lot from them in terms of how to better conduct myself both at training and in life outside of sport. The most inspirational athlete for me is Jared Tallent. Despite the hype and controversy around the Russians being banned from the athletics program at the Olympics, he still managed to back it up, yet again at another Olympic Games and come 2nd for his country in the 50km walk, which is probably the most gruelling event to put yourself through. To keep your mind and body strong throughout training and competition is just inspirational. So whenever I feel down or feel that the world is against me, I'll remember that it's nothing compared to what Jarad goes though day in and day out. That motivates me to keep pushing and hopefully find myself as successful as him one day.
I have learnt that it really is the one percenters that really differentiate the champions from the competitors. I have come away from The Games with so much knowledge and I have grown as a person. Next on my agenda is to get back into training for the Australian summer season in preparation for the World Championships in London next year. Then all eyes will be on The Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in 2018, followed by the Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
Kurtis Marschall, age 19, is an Australian pole vaulter. He competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the men’s pole vault.
Follow Kurtis on Instagram @kurtmarschall_