When Argentina’s German Chiaraviglio cleared 5.15m in the pole vault tonight in Sherbrooke he knew that from now on he will always be remembered as the 2003 World Youth champion of the discipline.
Coming into the championships, Chiaraviglio was spotted as being one of the favourites for winning gold, especially by the South American contingent whose gold medal tally is now 3, following on Uruguay’s Andres Silva’s win in the octathlon and Brazil’s Julio Cesar de Olivera’s title in the javelin.
But when he was presented by the announcer, just minutes before the final got underway, his face wasn’t that of a confident young man.
“I was very concerned because around a month ago, when I won the South American Youth Championships in Uruguay I suffered a little accident. I had already cleared 5.16 metres which is still my personal best but when attempting 5.21 metres the pole broke.”
A relatively rare incident which athletes often solve by simply taking another pole from their bag but which caused enough grief to the young Chiaraviglio.
“We had to buy a new pole and wasn’t able to try it until after my qualification round.”
Chiaraviglio had to use a different pole in the qualification rounds two days ago but this didn’t seem to affect his performances as he was the only man to clear the requested 4.80-metre qualifying height.
The serious business was only just beginning though. With just one day – yesterday – to get used to his new equipment, Chiaraviglio did struggle with his first jump of the competition, which was a miss at 4.60 metres.
But from then on, Chiaraviglio had a clear contest never losing the lead of the competition. After first time clearances at 4.75, 4.85, 4.95, 5.05 and 5.10, Chiaraviglio needed two jumps to jump 5.15m, a performance which would suffice for gold.
“I am obviously very happy but I am all the more happy because I didn’t come into these championships in the best of conditions. I just tried to have good jumps.”
At the age of 16, Chiaraviglio is a very determined young man.
“These championships were by far my main objective of the year. I will compete in some other competitions when I return home but nothing compares to this.”
Athletics seems to be the essential topic for the teenager who is quite shy in admitting that he’s not as good a student as an athlete.
“Sometimes I study but not very often. I train every day though. Every day apart from weekends obviously!”
From an athletics family, his father Guillermo a pole vaulter and his mother a shot putter, Chiaraviglio also has an older brother of 18, himself a decent pole vaulter.
“Being born in athletics,” he says, “does help. I have always been surrounded by athletics people, I have always heard about the sport. It was somewhat inevitable that I’d be an athlete myself.”
Chiaraviglio smiles when asked about the best performance of his father, who is also his coach. He winks and answers 4.50 metres.
“But don’t remind him that I am better than him because he won’t like it!”