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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Yue

Anicka Newell kicks off 2021 hungry for more pole vault success

When Canadian pole vaulter Anicka Newell stepped into the Expo Dome in Belton, Texas, for the annual Expo Explosion pole vault competition, she already knew it was going to be a big day for her.

“I have a whole new mindset this year,” Newell shares over Zoom. “Going into that meet, I was kind of a big head, I was already talking big game, ‘I’m coming to compete, I’m coming to jump 4.70 today, it’s going to be the Anicka show,’ kind of thing.”

“I’m glad I didn’t just talk the talk, and I was able to back it up with my performance, because I was on cloud nine.”

By the end of the competition, Newell came away with the victory to start of the 2021 season, soaring over a new personal-best of 4.70-metres on her first attempt, while also achieving the Olympic women’s pole vault standard.

“It is one of my biggest moments of my career,” Newell says, reflecting on her jump of 4.70-metres. “This one was really special to me, just coming off of so many mental issues and physical issues with injuries, coming into the season confident and having all the work back it up at a competition, it really proved to myself and others, I’m ready to compete this year and I was ready for this mark and ready for higher.”

Born in Denton, Texas, Newell holds dual citizenship, with her mother being from Canada. When it came down to deciding whether she would ultimately compete for the red, white and blue or the maple leaf, she chose the one that allowed her the most opportunities, Canada.

“I’m very happy that I chose Canada,” Newell says. “I love Team Canada, it is a family to me.”

Fresh off her collegiate career with the Texas State Bobcats, the then 23-year-old made her Team Canada and Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro, finishing 29th in the women’s pole vault competition.

Looking back, she has no regrets of her performance and has learned from it, but admits the nerves had got the best of her in the largest stage she’s ever competed in.

“I would have definitely told myself to calm the f--- down,” Newell explains. “If I could go back, I would tell myself, ‘Hey, it’s ok. You’re prepared for this, let your body do what it knows how to do.”

Since then she’s represented Canada at the 2017 London World Athletics Championships, before jumping in front of a Canadian crowd at the 2018 NACAC Championships in Toronto, Ontario.

When asked about learning from her experiences over the last five years, Newell knows that she has come a long way since then and is ready to get back onto the international stage.

“I’m hungry,” says Newell,” I’m so hungry for redemption, it’s just unbelievable. The amount of fire in me right now, I’m a whole new athlete, I’m coming in like a freight train. I want the world to know that I came to play. I’m very excited, I’ll be looking for some higher bars this year and I want to walk away with a medal. I’m coming in hot.”

After a year of ups and downs, from injuries to working on the mental side of her performance, Newell has continued to work towards her goals.

“Perform on demand” has been used by the Athletics Canada coaching staff over the last few years, and Newell has maintained a strong conversation with the Canadian coaches and says she is all in.

“Put me in coach,” Newell laughs. “I’ve talked to the coaches with Canada, how the past couple years I wasn’t where I needed to be and I told them coming into this year, ‘I want to feel supported because I’m going to shine this year. I will be ready for Team Canada and do what I need to do.”

“I’m only beginning my season, and I have much more to prove and I definitely want to be someone they can count on.”

As of now, the already rescheduled 2021 Tokyo Olympics are only six months away. With Canada’s athletics team boasting an experienced team with depth in every event, Newell emphasizes how close she is with her Canadian teammates.

“It blows my mind to think about the calibre of athletes that I am around, but also friends with. That’s really exciting for me, to see how this sport is going to continue to progress. Alysha [Newman] and I are going great this year and provide a great showing for Canada so I’m excited and fun to see where that goes.”

With the mental and physical ability of clearing the Olympic standard, Newell has her sights on her next goal. With her next competition scheduled to be at the first meet of the American Track League in Fayetteville, Arkansas on January 24, Newell’s season is just starting and the sky is the limit.

“I’m coming for that Canadian record, that’s the next height,” Newell says. “I have a long way to go this year, we just need to continue progressing. Getting better, getting stronger, both mentally and physically.”

With so much in the air right now, the goal of the Olympic Games remains in sight and Anicka Newell can’t wait to get back onto the runway with the Canadian singlet across her chest.

“That’s probably the most special feeling, when you literally put on a country and represent it,” Newell says. “Being out on the pinnacle stage, in front of the entire world and representing an entire nation, it’s one of the most special feelings.”


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© Jonathan Yue
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