TORONTO — Alysha Newman is accustomed to waiting patiently between pole vault attempts. Depending on the competition, she can wait as long as half an hour between jumps.
The stop-and-start pace of pole vault will be flipped on Saturday when the Canadian record-holder competes in the second edition of the Ultimate Garden Clash, a clever online event that's only happening due to COVID-19.
The mission: To complete as many vaults over four metres in 30 minutes. Pure power combined with the cardio of a distance race.
Newman will compete in her "backyard" against reigning Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece and two-time American indoor champ Katie Nageotte. But the bigger goal is to beat the trio of Mondo Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie and Sam Kendricks who together had 98 clearances over five metres on May 3.
The three women will each need about 33 clearances — less than one a minute. The event will be split into two 15-minute sections, with a brief break between.
Newman a 25-year-old from London, Ont., attempted the feat earlier in the week for practice.
"I was pretty tired by the end of both. So it's gonna take a lot," she said.
The men's event finished in a tie between Lavillenie, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist, and world-record holder Duplantis, and drew more than 250,000 people to its live stream. Saturday's event will be streamed on CBCSports.ca at noon ET Saturday.
Newman will compete at a makeshift facility in Caledon, Ont., where a mat and a run-up were laid down over an old tennis court.
The tough part, she said, will be the jog back to the start position after landing. And if the bar falls, the athlete has to replace it.
Newman, the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion, was excited about the event for a few reasons. It's helping keep sports in the spotlight, it's entertaining and educating people, and she cherishes the chance to go head-to-head — virtually — against two of the world's best.
"I think it's good for us to tap into this competitiveness, because we all know our best practices are the ones when we're competing. And we know when we're competing against other girls, we're tapped into this adrenaline that you don't usually get in practices," she said.
Newman, who hasn't competed since February, would have been ramping up her competitive season now in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. But they were postponed until 2021, and the world went into lockdown. She was able to train at an indoor facility in Bolton, Ont., and then had planned to move outdoors, but the bad weather in Ontario has kept her grounded for the past three weeks.
"This (online event) is something to keep me hungry, keep me motivated. . . and it's kind of a tester to see if I'm adapting well to everything that's going on."
Newman is focusing on the bright side of the global sports lockdown. She finished 17th at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and is currently ranked No. 4 in the world.
"I'm making adjustments, I'm getting better, I'm jumping higher, I'm doing well. And so I think I could look at it and say, 'Oh, poor me,' or I can sit there say, 'Wow, look how far I came in four years from Rio. Could you imagine one more year?'"
"And that's the way my coaches and I are looking at it is this might be really good to get all my things off the track in a row, so you're stress-free, you can learn more things about you as a human being and as an athlete, and you can actually grow."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2020.