Updated 29 July 2008
Giovanni LANARO Mercado, Mexico (Pole Vault)
Born 27 September 1981, Los Angeles, California, USA
1.83m / 82kg
Lives in Los Angeles
Coach: Brian Yokohama
University: Mount SAC, Southern California, USA
Giovanni Lanaro had always dreamed of becoming a professional pole vaulter. Since he was a small child, he had loved watching his elder brother fly over the bar. Michel Lanaro did it pretty well - he once reached 4.85 - and he never imagined that his younger brother would surpass him.
Giovanni was born in the United States but he always felt like a Mexican citizen. His mother, María, was from Sinaloa, and she met her future husband, Michel, at Southern California, in Mexico.
They moved to Los Angeles because of work but they would talk in Spanish at home. “We went to a bilingual school and spoke English every day, but Spanish is my mother tongue, and I use it to talk with my girlfriend, who is also Mexican”, explains “Gio”, his beloved nickname. “Everybody calls me that. Only my mother uses the word “Giovanni” when she’s angry with me,” he laughs.
Lanaro finally started with Pole Vault at high school. But only two months later, he suffered a back injury on a skateboard and he had to quit jumping. As he had a pool at home, he started swimming, especially at 50m and 100m freestyle, and became one of the top 10 swimmers of the state, “I swam every day, but I still had a Sergey Bubka poster in my room during those four years”, he remembers.
Finally, in September 1999, Lanaro was back at the Pole Vault and, only a few months later, in 2000, he surpassed the 5 metres barrier. His coach, Brian Yokohama, was born in the United States but comes from a Japanese family. “I’ve been training with him since I started with athletics, and we trust each other a lot,” Lanaro said. “I only speak a little Japanese, but I’d love to learn it in the future.”
Lanaro improved markedly during 2001, reaching 5.40, but in 2002 he needed surgery on his ankle. He came back in 2003 and has improved his personal best since that year. At the same time, he studied kinesiology at Cal State Fullerton University, representing it at the NCAA Championships for three years. His best position there was 4th indoors and 8th outdoors.
“During those days I’d never thought that I would be able to jump as high as I’m doing right now”, he explained. But he continued to reach higher heights and to compete at some events across the United States. However, his results were still not good enough to travel to Europe, but his chance came in major championships.
“That was my goal - to win a medal for my country at Pole Vault, a discipline that wasn’t well developed there”, Lanaro says, remembering that Mexico used to have great walkers and distance runners, but never such good athletes in the jumping disciplines. He went to the 2004 Olympics, in Athens, but his first Olympic experience was frustrating. During his first attempt, he strained his left leg and was unable to show what he could do.
On the other hand, Lanaro started to share training camps with great pole vaulters, learning a lot from them. “I practised a lot with Americans Tim Mack and Brad Walker,” he said. “But the one that I got along better from the beginning was Daichi Sawano, from Japan. He’s now a good friend of mine, and we travel a couple of times during the year so as to practise together.”
During December and January, Daichi goes to Mount SAC University, while Lanaro crosses the Pacific Ocean around April. “Ï think that I’ve travelled six times to Japan, so I feel at home there” he said. He likes the way he trains in Japan as they focus on jumping technique, the opposite of the American method, where power tends to be the main point of development.
Lanaro’s first experience at World Championships was in Helsinki 2005, when he jumped 5.45 during the qualification round. But he exploded at the 2006 World Indoor Championships, in Moscow, where he finished fourth (5.50). “That tournament gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I realised that I could jump at the same level of the top pole vaulters.” During the same indoor season, Lanaro reached a personal best of 5.71, a Mexican record.
Although he could not maintain his progress during the outdoor season because of an injury he suffered in April 2006, he trained well during the winter and surpassed 5.80 three times in 2007. His PB now is the 5.82 he jumped in Walnut, California. “That jump gave me the possibility to travel and compete in Europe in the summer, and pushed me to dream of more difficult goals”, he says.
Lanaro’s most emotional moment came in July, at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. In difficult weather conditions that limited him to 5.30, he won the silver medal for Mexico, the first podium for the country at Pole Vault in a major event. “That was really amazing,” he said. “I was so happy that I didn’t mind jumping only 5.30.”
One month later, Lanaro went to Japan, a country he loves very much, to take part in the World Championships, in Osaka. However, four days before the competition, he became feverish, which prevented him from passing the initial height of 5.40.
At the beginning of 2008, Lanaro recovered his best form and wanted to reach the final at the World Indoor Championships, in Valencia, as he did in Moscow two years ago. “In February, in Mount SAC, I jumped 5.70,” he said. “I tried hard to improve both the technique and my mark. The World Indoor Championships is my first goal this year”. Although he attained his season’s best with 5.65, he could not reach the final.
After that event, he was out of competition for two months but finally came back and had a great performance in Modesto, California, recording an outstanding mark of 5.80. During June he went to Mexico, where he won the National Championships with 5.66, but failed to jump 5.83 to improve his PB.
Lanaro was invited to train in Russia, but he would rather stay in the USA. That’s where he can follow the San Francisco 49ers team in the NFL and Milan in the soccer world. Meanwhile, of course, he continues studying for his Masters in Kinesiology, while teaching badminton, weightlifting and pole vaulting at Mount SAC University.
The most important goals for this year are to improve his PB of 5.82 and to go to Beijing and atone for his bad performance in Athens. “I have more experience now than in Athens,” he said. “I think you’d need to jump 5.90 to get a medal and I’m training hard to do it.”
5.82 (2007); 5.71i (2006)
2000: 5.05; 2001: 5.40; 2002: 5.40i; 2003: 5.50; 2004: 5.60; 2005: 5.65; 2006: 5.71i/5.53; 2007: 5.82; 2008: 5.80/5.65i
2003 5th Pan American Games (Santo Domingo) 5.30
2004 q Olympic Games (Athens) NM
2005 q World Championships (Helsinki) 5.45
2006 4th World Indoor Championships (Moscow) 5.50
2007 2nd Pan American Games (Río de Janeiro) 5.30
q World Championships (Osaka) NM
2008 q World Indoor Championships (Valencia) 5.65
Prepared by Víctor Pochat for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008