Vaulting to pole position in heartland

FEWER than 10 secondary schools and junior colleges offer pole vault facilities for their students, and David Yeo wants to change that by popularising the sport in Singapore's heartland.

The pole vault coach, who has 16 years of experience, drew up plans to introduce this track and field discipline to the masses after he was inspired by exhibition jumps held in shopping malls and heritage sites across Europe and the United States.

The 41-year-old said: "With so few people, we've been able to bring Singapore to a prominent level in pole vault, so mathematically, if we are able to involve more people, we can definitely reach greater heights."

National pole vaulters trained by Yeo include Rachel Yang, Sean Lim and Chan Sheng Yao, who will all be competing in next month's SEA Games.

According to Yeo, cost has been an issue when it comes to popularising the sport as each fibreglass pole costs up to $1,000, and a professional pole vaulter uses up to 50 poles during his or her career. Hence, this resource-intensive sport has been largely limited to schools with more funding.

That was why the DYPV Club, set up by Yeo, his ex-trainees and parents of current trainees, organised the Heartland Vault @ Khatib - an exhibition jump at the annual Nee Soon Community Sports Festival last Sunday.

"In addition to the need for both length and height clearance, I wanted a location that was uniquely Singapore, so we decided to use the HDB estates as a backdrop," he explained.

V. Murugan, 68, and his four grandchildren who were at the sports festival, also learnt the basics of pole vaulting through a side event run by Zoom Athletics Club.

Murugan, a retiree, said: "I brought my grandchildren here to experience some new sports and hopefully they'll develop an interest. I want them to do something for the country and win a sporting gold medal for Singapore one day."

Yeo already has plans for another exhibition jump in September in collaboration with Braddell Heights CSC. He aims to organise such events three or four times a year.

berelow@sph.com.sg