Athletics: Back after day-long delay over pole vault equipment

After being stranded for more than 24 hours at Hong Kong International Airport, national pole vaulter Rachel Yang finally touched down at Changi Airport with her husband-coach David Yeo yesterday.

Having clinched gold at the Hong Kong Inter-City Athletics Championships on Sunday with a leap of 3.70m, the 35-year-old Yang was looking forward to returning home the next day.

However, counter staff refused to check in her competition equipment of about 10 five-metre poles, preventing them from boarding their Singapore Airlines flight, scheduled to depart at 12.30pm on Monday.

The couple were informed that storage space was unavailable as a prior arrangement had not been made for the equipment.

This came as a surprise to them, as there were no such issues when they flew to Hong Kong on the same carrier for the meet.

The flights were booked by Singapore Athletics (SA) via the eServ central booking system used by national sports associations.

Rachel Yang at the 28th SEA Games, Athletics Women's Pole Vault, on June 11, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

When contacted, SA general manager Jaime Cheong said: "We already did due diligence. We are investigating how this happened."

Initial efforts to find an alternative flight home which could accommodate their equipment were unsuccessful.

As officials from Sport Singapore, eServ and SIA worked to resolve the matter, the couple retired to the airport hotel as Yang was feeling unwell.

Shortly before midnight, an eServ representative notified them that they would be returning home on a 12.30pm flight the next day.

Yang is relieved to be back home and has put the incident behind her.

"My focus is on competitions and improving my performance. I will leave this matter for the authorities to handle. My husband and I hope that (SA) pay more attention towards future trips."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline Athletics: Back after day-long delay over pole vault equipment. Subscribe