A big leap forward
ActiveSG's pole vault programme attracts newbies and allows former athletes to rekindle their passion
Seven years ago, Ang Guo Jun won a silver medal in the pole vault event at the National Schools Championships.
The former Victoria Junior College student pursued his passion in the track and field event until two years ago, when he stopped because of work commitments.
Now 25, Ang returned to the sport earlier this year, thanks to the pole vault programme which is part of ActiveSG's Athletics Club.
"Before I returned to the sport, the last time I jumped was when I was in university," the senior associate at auditing firm KPMG told The New Paper.
"I stopped mainly because of work. There was no training facility or coach who can train a working adult.
"With ActiveSG, I started jumping regularly again, because their training sessions are in the evenings.
"I love pole vaulting, so I took the opportunity to train after work."
Led by national pole vaulter Rachel Yang, the pole vault programme runs for 10 weeks with three sessions a week - twice at night during weekdays and once on Saturday mornings - at the Bukit Gombak Stadium.
NEW PERSONAL BEST
Ang, whose brother Chen Xiang holds the national record in the 110m hurdles event, posted a new personal best of 4.50 metres just three months after resuming training.
Pole vault coach David Yeo, who has 17 years of experience and coached national jumpers Sean Lim and Chan Sheng Yao to rewrite the national record (currently 5.01m) three times in 2014, is not surprised by Ang's progress.
"This is a sport where you cannot peak or reach your highest level while you are still in the school system," said Yeo.
"The A Division champion might not be your best jumper (in the long term). The guy who finished eighth behind him, could be the hidden gem.
"Speaking as a coach, this programme gives athletes who are not in school any more, a platform where they can train and maybe reach a high level."
Yeo explained that pole vault is a resource-intensive event.
Each fibreglass pole costs up to $1,000, and a professional pole vaulter uses up to 50 poles during his or her career.
There is also the issue of securing a proper training venue.
Veteran long-distance running coach Steven Quek, who is one of two head coaches at the ActiveSG Athletics Club - the other is former national sprints coach Melvin Tan - said the programme allows Singaporeans the chance to participate in lesser-known events.
"Very often in Singapore, our athletes train regularly with schools," said Quek.
"In the case of pole vault, not many places have the poles, the pit and the technical expertise from coaches for people to continue training.
"This programme gives athletes who have left school the chance to continue their participation.
"It also gives students whose schools do not have pole vault facilities an opportunity to try out the sport.
"Without it, they have no chance at all."
The next 10-week run of the pole vault programme will begin next Saturday. Those interested can visit www.myactivesg.com to sign up.