Team McTaggart take on the Games
Gold Coast 2018 was a dream come true for two Kristin Alumni who had been working towards Commonwealth Games selection since they were children. Siblings Olivia McTaggart (2017) and Cameron McTaggart (2015) made headlines as the young brother-sister duo in the 251-strong New Zealand team; Olivia was selected to compete in the pole vault and Cameron in the 77kg men’s weightlifting.
While the pair were excited to achieve selection together, their paths had taken very different turns in their journey to their Commonwealth Games debut.
Both started their sporting careers as gymnasts with shared ambitions to represent New Zealand. A serious spinal injury at 14 years of age left Olivia bereft of her sport. Doctors told her to ‘take up chess’ as her injury would prevent her ever returning to gymnastics. “It’s easier to fix a broken back than it is a broken spirit,” says Olivia in her Start Your Impossible promotional video for Toyota, “so, I took up pole-vaulting.”
“It’s easier to fix a broken back than it is a broken spirit”
After recovering from her injury, Olivia became fully committed to her new code and by 2015 she was making her presence felt, winning the U16 Bronze at the Australian Junior Championships less than six months after taking up the sport. In the past two years, Olivia has broken Kiwi Olympian Eliza McCartney’s New Zealand secondary schools’ and national U17 records and has a personal best of 4.40m.
For Cameron, a change of sports came when he was no longer enjoying gymnastics. After dedicating eight years to his training, it was a big decision to change but with the backing of his family Cameron started looking to other codes to reinvigorate his love of high-performance sport and competition. A suggestion from his mum, Amanda, was the catalyst for Cameron taking up weightlifting under the expert guidance of Olympian and Commonwealth gold medallist Richie Patterson, who he still trains with today.
The 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, and 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea have been major events in Cameron’s weightlifting career so far. In 2017 he competed in the Commonwealth and Oceania Weightlifting Championships on the Gold Coast placing 1st in the Oceania Junior Division, 2nd in the Oceania Senior Division and 3rd in the Commonwealth Senior Division.
For both Olivia and Cameron, the 2018 Commonwealth Games had always been a major target – even before they switched codes. While their chosen sports have changed, their grit, determination and resilience have continued to drive them forward and were as evident in their Games performances in April as they have been throughout their sporting careers.
Both McTaggarts did New Zealand proud on the Gold Coast. Olivia finished 9th in the pole vault, clearing 4.30m in front of the sold-out stadium and Cameron finished 7th in his 77kg weightlifting class, lifting 290kg (130kg snatch, 160kg clean and jerk). The pair are incredibly proud of each other and how they performed at the event, and they’re already looking ahead with their sights set on their next goal: Olympic selection.
The road ahead is full of potential for Olivia and Cameron; we can’t wait to cheer them on at Tokyo 2020.