It proved a long afternoon for Irish pole vaulter Tori Pena at last Saturday’s European Team Championships in Santry.
With all four seasons pummelling the athletes (and spectators), the pole vault took well over two hours to complete with the cross-bar constantly at risk of blowing over in gale-force gusts.
“Yes, there were a lot of delays, but it’s often like that in the pole vault, especially when you have girls of very different standards competing,” said Pena.
Pena bided her time until the bar was raised to 4.15m. She soared over that height and then over 4.30m at her first attempt. Defying the conditions, she made three attempts at 4.40m, but failed to clear the bar. However, it was enough to seal the silver medal behind the Czech Republic’s Jirina Svobodova.
“Was it my best performance for Ireland? Well, I’ve done better heights, but I did what I had to do today and came in lower than usual for me.
“Today was all about picking up points for the team.”
Ireland ended up a creditable seventh overall with some brave runs on the track and Brian Gregan the star, as he not only won the 400m but helped the 4×400 team to victory. In the technical events, Ireland were less strong, with Pena’s performance the high point.
“I would love to help build up all the field events here. It doesn’t happen overnight – the pole vault in particular is a very complicated event and it’s hard to do outdoors in Ireland because of the weather.”
Matters are improving and on Sunday, while Pena was ‘coaching’ Brian McMahon in the men’s pole vault, she was approached by two young athletes from the Lusk club already besotted by the event.
This is Pena’s third year wearing the green of Ireland and she has become one of the team’s most faithful members. “Whenever we ask, Tori is there,” says Irish team manager Patsy McGonagle. “She’s class.”
The good news is that Pena would be only too happy to help develop Irish pole vaulting through mentoring and clinics. “My coach Greg Hall, who has coached two Olympic gold medals already, does clinics. We’d love to do that here,” she says.
Other Irish field eventers who already help young athletes include javelin thrower Anita Fitzgibbon and Olympic high jumper Deirdre Ryan.