Glasgow 2014: How to switch from gymnastics to pole vault

Four years ago Olivia Curran's dream of representing the Isle of Man at the Commonwealth Games lay in tatters.

The teenage gymnast was left unable to walk when, days before her event, a knee ligament injury sustained during a routine manoeuvre on the uneven bars in training ruled her out of the Delhi Games.

But on Saturday, the 23-year-old will be in Glasgow, proud to represent her island in a brand new sport after reinventing herself as a pole vaulter.

"I was days from fulfilling my dream when my hand slipped," she said of her Delhi injury. "I landed on my knees and knew I'd done damage.

"I was so angry and frustrated. One minute I was in tears, the next I wanted to throw things at the wall."

Olivia Curran

Curran spent two years fighting her way back to full fitness

Curran had been set to become the first Manx female gymnast to compete at the Commonwealth Games and had deferred going to university to qualify.

Instead, in the next 12 months, her doctor told her she may never play sport again after an unsuccessful operation to repair torn cartilage.

"It was horrendous, I couldn't walk let alone run - I was devastated. I started with swimming then cycling and then I broke my ankle but I just kept going."

In total, the plucky Manx athlete spent two years fighting her way back to full fitness trying a variety of sports.

"I've been a gymnast since I was three but I knew there would be another sport I could do well at.

"Going from near the top in one sport to rock bottom of another has been a great challenge."

Having moved to study at Loughborough University she looked for disciplines which would make the most of her gymnastic skills.

"I narrowed it down to diving or pole vault but with the nearest diving pool miles away and lots of great vaulters on my doorstep, I figured it was the one to try.

"It may seem like a strange choice but there are lots of similarities to gymnastics like the spatial awareness needed, the turning upside down and the speed.

"As a gymnast I had to run on my toes so I had to completely change the way I run."

Manx Commonwealth Games medal winners

Gold:1966, Kingston: Peter Buckley - cycling (road race), 1986, Edinburgh: Nigel Kelly - shooting (skeet), 2006, Melbourne: Mark Cavendish - cycling (scratch race)

Silver:1998, Kuala Lumpur: David Moore - shooting (50m rifle prone), 2014, Glasgow: Peter Kennaugh - cycling (points race)

Bronze:1958, Cardiff: Stuart Slack - cycling (road race), 1970, Edinburgh: Alexandra Jackson - swimming (200m freestyle), 1978, Edmonton: Stewart Watterson - shooting (50m rifle prone), 2006, Melbourne: Trevor Boyles and David Walton - shooting (team clay pigeon trap), 2010, Delhi: Mark Christian - cycling (points race), 2010, Delhi: Tim Kneale - shooting (double trap)

At first she spent a year simply walking with the pole before bravely entering her first competition.

"Looking back I was probably mad to persevere. My first few competitions were awful. I had no idea what I was doing and basically invented my own technique to clear the bar by doing the splits.

"Boy, I was determined to clear the bar but everyone thought it was hilarious."

The 23-year-old is coached by Henrietta Paxton, who will represent Scotland in Glasgow, and has also overcome a number of injuries since Delhi.

"We've shared a similar journey and I really admire her bravery," said Curran, who recently smashed her personal best by 24 cm, jumping 4.05 metres to win the British Athletics jumps and throws festivals in Birmingham.

"She has inspired me to stick with it when things got tough. Hopefully Glasgow will have a better ending for both of us.

"I've despised it at times because I've always wanted to be the best at everything I do but I've also loved the journey.

"I'm in the best physical shape of my life and I want to enjoy the whole experience and do myself proud. I really want to set a new personal best in Glasgow."