Why few Elite Asian Vaulters: It’s all about mindsets

SINGAPORE – Very few Asian pole vaulters featured at the London Olympics. Of the 32 competitors in the men’s event, which was won by France’s Renaud Lavillenie in a new Olympic record of 5.97m, only three came from the continent. In the women’s draw, won by American Jennifer Suhr (4.83m), just two out of 39 were Asian.

But United States Track and Field high performance coach Brian Yokoyama, who has worked closely with 2004 Olympic champion Tim Mack, believes the reason why there are not enough successful Asian pole vaulters on the world stage is due to mindsets.

“The difference is that in (the US), academics and athletics go hand in hand,” said Yokoyama, who is in Singapore to conduct a three-day workshop on pole vaulting until tomorrow at ITE College East.

“Perhaps Asia does not understand that yet, and this may be one area that Singapore can make a push in.”

Yokoyama, who is also a Professor of Kinesiology at the Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, California, added: “We have many pole vaulters with PHDs and doctorates. A lot of successful ones apply what they learn to the sport – they are able to think and control their minds and that’s how they get so good at it.

“The stereotype that athletes who spend more time training are not smart enough is flawed.”

And these are some of the values and knowledge he plans to impart during his three-day workshop which began yesterday for 63 beginner and advanced-level athletes and coaches.

Among those who found the workshop useful were 2011 South-east Asian (SEA) Games bronze medallist Edwin Chong, and Ng Kean Mun, a coach with Raffles Institution and Catholic High School.

“I try my best to go for all these different workshops, because I believe that international coaches have different insights, and it is very good to absorb and learn from them,” said Chong, 24.

Ng added: “This workshop is useful as it helps us update our techniques at the elite level. At the local level, we may be a bit deficient in terms of our knowledge and the drills we’re doing.

“Brian is definitely able to help us in this area.”

Apart from Mack, Yokoyama has also worked with triple-Canadian national champion Rob Pike, Japanese record-holder and two-time Olympian Daichi Sawano and Mexican Giovanni Lanaro, a two-time Olympian and national record holder in his country.


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