When high jumper Eleanor Patterson was denied the opportunity to defend her 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medal after missing selection for the 2018 edition of the ‘Friendly Games’, she spent a year in the sporting wilderness.

However, after fielding a phone call from Sydney-based coach Alex Stewart, Patterson decided she needed to move from her comfort zone of Leongatha, in regional Victoria, where she was surrounded by family, friends, and familiarity to fulfill her potential.

“I wasn’t happy with the set up where I grew up in Victoria. I’d been training under a coach for a long period, and I needed a change. A change of environment . . . people . . . a lot of things.

“I quit sport for over a year [after missing the 2018 Commonwealth Games] and it took me a long time to realise I wasn’t finished, but I needed change. I needed that time to find the motivation to come back into sport. Alex reached out, and the rest is history.

Eleanor Patterson OLY

“I moved to Sydney in June 2019 and started working with Alex, and I also became a member of the New South Wales Institute of Sport community. It was a huge moment, a pivotal moment. I remember the first instance of doing a training session with Alex and being petrified and not wanting to do it. Feeling so scared and daunted.

“It’s a huge change for me moving up to Sydney and chasing that dream.  But I think a part of that was remaining true to myself. I knew deep down I needed to change the environment around me. I knew coming up to Sydney and working with Alex was the best decision for me.

“It brought me to enjoy the sport . . . love the sport . . . and have such an appreciation for anyone who is in it and striving to better themselves.”

Patterson recently starred in the NSWIS Lights Up athlete documentary series.

Patterson became world champion in 2022. In 2023 she won the world championships silver medal, adding to her (2014) Commonwealth Games gold medal and (2022) silver. She finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics.

Ahead of this Friday’s International Women’s Day, the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) has sought the passionate testimonies of some of our highest achievers to provide their raw insights into what gives them the strength and the character to continue pushing themselves when others give up.

While NSWIS has handpicked the insights of just eight of its athletes, there’s literally hundreds of just as equally stirring stories among the women who are either scholarship holders or who work at the Institute where they provide the athletes with world class support.

Eleanor Patterson is a “Woman of Wonder” this International Women’s Day.

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

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