Barcelona – Brazil’s one and only previous gold medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships came back in 1994 when Clodoalo da Silva won the now-defunct 20km road race title but pole vaulter Thiago da Silva doubled that meagre number when he sailed clear at the first time of asking at 5.55m on Wednesday (12).

Croatia’s Ivan Horvat and Canada’s Shawnacy Barber also cleared the same height in the Montjuic Olympic Stadium but had more failures on the night and as the chess game, that a top class Pole Vault competition often becomes, reached its end game, da Silva gambled on passing at 5.60m.

It proved to be an astute decision as his two rivals brought the bar down three times and a rare gold medal was won by a South American athlete.

“I know the history of Brazil at these Championships but there wasn’t any pressure on me as I had only jumped a best 5.35m before I arrived here,” reflected da Silva.

“However, I was confident I could jump higher because I had been training so well in the last month-and-a-half in Formia and clearing much better heights there.

Technique on top

“I never came here thinking about a gold though, just doing my best and jumping high, because I knew that there were plenty of other good vaulters and so it proved. It was a very tough competition, mentally as well as physically tough, I had to stay very focussed but my technique remained good,” he added.

Mentioning the name of the Italian town where he had spent the last six weeks – da Silva also spends much of his time training on home soil in Sao Paulo – before arriving in the Catalan city should give Pole Vault fans a clue as to who is coach is, none other than the famed Vitaly Petrov.

Petrov guided World record holders Sergey Bubka and Yelena Isinbayeva to so many records and titles.

He now looks after da Silva’s compatriot, occasional training partner and 2011 World Championships gold medallist Fabiana Murer.

“What can I say about Vitaly, he is the best,” added da Silva, whose previous medal on a global stage came when he finished second at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

“But Fabiana has also helped me so much, she has provided lots of advice. When I was 15 and I was jumping around 4.80m, just like her at the time, she encouraged me and said that one day I would be jumping so much higher.

“Not surprisingly, when she won in Daegu last year, I was so happy for her. We had a nice celebration.”

Proud Petrov

Petrov was delighted that his latest protégé was finally putting all the jigsaw pieces together but cautious about his future.

“Gold medal OK, height OK, technique OK; but he’s only now really starting to understand the event and put everything together,” commented Petrov.

Petrov brushed aside any suggestions that there was a little bit of the Ukraine legend Bubka, now an IAAF Vice-President, in his latest World champion.

“There are so many things that go into being a top pole vaulter, it’s impossible to make comparisons,” said Petrov, perhaps wisely keeping his thoughts to himself to avoid putting any pressure on da Silva after his unexpected success.

However, da Silva’s victory may have exorcised a little ghost for Petrov.

It was in the Montjuic Olympic Stadium that Bubka, the overwhelming favourite to take defend the Olympic Games title he had won four years earlier in Seoul, crashed out of the competition with three failures at his opening height of 5.70m 20 years ago. Despite winning three more times at the IAAF World Championships, Bubka was never to get another Olympic medal.

Ready for Rio

The bar never reached quite high on Wednesday night as da Silva’s competition came to an end when he brought the bar down three times at 5.65m.

“By that stage I was tired and the emotion of winning the gold medal got to me,” added da Silva.

However, if he can continue his upward trajectory under the expert eye of Petrov, great things could beckon.

“My idol is, of course, Bubka but I really like Renaud Lavillenie as well and the Olympic Games will be in Rio in four years’ time. Maybe I will be able to challenge Lavillenie and the rest of the world for the gold medal then because who would not want to win a gold medal in their home country,” said the delighted da Silva, who also got his second national junior record of the summer to add to the more tangible gold medal that will be hung around his neck on Friday.

by: Phil Minshull


Thiago Braz Da Silva
Thiago Braz Da Silva

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