Roger Bannister’s effort to break the four-minute mile; Jim Hines smashing the 10 second barrier for a non-wind assisted 100m, and Vladimir Salnikov crashing though the 15 minute mark for the 1500m freestyle are events that will be celebrated for as long as sport – and humanity – exists.

And while Tokyo silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers would be proud to join their league should she one day leap higher than 2.09m, the devout Christian took time out before this weekend’s Glasgow World Indoor Championships to explain what it meant to be an athlete striving for her feats to count in eternity.

“Eternal perspective, having a perspective of eternity, [means] I have confidence in God for everything I do – including the biggest things in my life,” explained Olyslagers, who, through her Ministry, Everlasting Crowns, aims to empower young people to discover their God-given purpose and to live their faith boldly.

“I believe this life isn’t just for this life, it’s for eternity. I’m with Him. I have faith that what He’s done is enough to cover my entire life, and I want to meet Him. When I’ve got faith big enough for that then what’s centimetres on a high jump bar?

“The eternal perspective could mean that a particular competition might not be important in eternity, but I like to flip [that thought] around [to say] if the biggest decisions that are partnered with faith are important, then every single decision that follows is just as important. It transcends all of that.”

Olyslagers, who won the Maurie Plant meet in Melbourne with a jump of 1.99m the night before jetting out to her training camp in Ireland, wants her faith and athletic prowess to inspire people to realise the seemingly impossible is possible – if you try and have belief.

It’s for that reason the 27 year old New South Wales Institute of Sport scholarship holder from the Central Coast views each meet she competes in as an important opportunity.

“Because I have a faith that He’s with me when I’m out there competing, I realise every jump I do is shaping me, and it’s also shaping the people around me to see Christ in me; the hope and the glory,” said Olyslagers. “And that faith is strengthening me.

“I’m in sport . . . I love the high jump . . . but I love the people who I meet along the journey even more.

“I can use everything I’m experiencing on the tides of High Performance sport – the extreme of winning or losing – as something to share with everyone. When things happen, maybe you get injured, the whole world knows about it. I won’t describe it as ‘vulnerable’, but such times are almost the greatest platform to share the story I have with God, and [that’s something] I want people to know.

“It’s a beautiful thing to have eternal perspective in all that you do. If you asked me ‘how is jumping over a stick important in the terms of my Ministry and stuff?’ I’d say it is important because when something so simple is done with the love of God it can actually inspire people to step out of their comfort zone and lead to things they didn’t believe beforehand.

“I see [my sport] through that [prism]. It may be something that may seem small – like competing in Melbourne compared to, say, an Olympics – but I still think [to myself] this is just as powerful an opportunity to help change someone’s life as me jumping well at an Olympic Games.”

And, just like Bannister and the others, Olyslagers is driven by the idea of entering territory in her sport that no other person has chartered. But to pass the 2.09 world record Bulgarian Stefka Kostadinova set in 1965, she needs to find seven more centimetres.

“No-one has jumped 2.10m, so no-one knows what it takes to jump that high,” she said. “We’ve had some really beautiful mentors, jumpers who have jumped higher than me, but it’s a journey and [with coach Matt Horsnell] we’re training very hard and believing in what we’re doing . . .  even in those sessions that are the hardest and don’t really make much sense

“They’re the sessions that are leading us towards that breakthrough. We’re not settling for what we’ve done, we’re always pressing forward. There is always something to learn, and it’s important to remain a student and not just settling. It’s like you get to 2.03m but you keep going.

“My love for the sport isn’t determined on the performances as such, but just being able to enjoy it . . .  to always be constantly changing and being [focussed] on a big goal. And the goal is getting higher. There was once a stage where two metres was so far away . . . now we’re jumping it consistently.”

Olyslagers, who is proud of the depth of talent Australian high jumping boasts with 2022 world champion Eleanor Patterson, teenagers Erin Shaw and Izobelle Louison Roe, said nothing brings the best out of her than competition.

“When I have a competitor who is jumping the same height as me it means I’m going to be able to do something I haven’t been able to do myself,” she said. “When I see a woman jump over two metres, I get excited. I’m like ‘OK, we’ve got another one in the mix!’

“Some of my favourite competitions are like [Tokyo] when Yarolslava Mahuchikh, Mariya Lasitskene and I were challenging for spots on the podium – we were just going for it.

“I mean, I was coming third jumping 2.01! It was amazing because even when I didn’t feel like it, they kept pushing and helping to carry me to the next place. I just cherish those moments. My competitors aren’t barriers to my own success, they’re drawing something out of me that I could never do on my own.”

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.