Athletics: Singapore pole vault pair stranded in Hong Kong over checking in of 5-metre poles

Coach Yeo and athlete Yang stuck overseas due to issues with checking in their five-metre long poles on flight home

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - For over seven hours yesterday, pole vault coach David Yeo was making calls and going from counter to counter at the Hong Kong International Airport, trying to find a way home.

Yeo and his athlete Rachel Yang, who is also his wife, were supposed to board a Singapore Airlines flight at 12.30pm, after competing in the Hong Kong Inter-City Athletics Championships.

But they were told at the counter that they could not check in their five-metre long poles.

There were about 10 poles in all, including those used by teenage athlete Cherlin Sia, who had cleared 3.35m on Sunday to set a new national Under-18 record. The 16-year-old flew home on Sunday.

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They did not encounter any problems when they flew from Singapore to Hong Kong on the same carrier for the meet.

Yeo, 43, said he was told that prior arrangements were needed for the poles on the Hong Kong-Singapore flight, but none were made.


Rachel Yang (above) and coach David Yeo had no issues checking in the poles on their flight to Hong Kong. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The flights were booked by Singapore Athletics (SA) via the eServ central booking system used by National Sports Associations (NSAs) here.

"I went from counter to counter to try to find a flight that would take us. If money could solve the problem, why not, right?" Yeo said.

But his attempts were futile, and both he and Yang had just checked into the airport hotel when TNP called him at about 7.30pm last night.

Yeo said that the Singapore Airlines customer service in Singapore has been assisting them on the matter, with former national sprinter Poh Seng Song, now a pilot with the airline, also trying to help.

Yeo said: "I couldn't use a freight forwarding service because they'd need a fixed address of origin.

"My last resort is to ask my Hong Kong friend and use his address, but it would mean a delay in having the poles, the only ones we have, back home."

When contacted, SA general manager Jaime Cheong said the NSA is trying to get in touch with the booking agent to assist the stranded pair.

She said pole vaulters would be booked on Singapore Airlines for overseas trips because the association is confident that there would be no issues in the transportation of the poles.

All other athletes would be booked on the most cost-effective airline options.

She added that the pole vaulters had not faced such issues with the same airline previously, when their tickets were booked by SA.

Cheong said: "I don't know if there was any misunderstanding... and I have to clear that up so that this doesn't happen again."