Realising he needed to train with better facilities in order to succeed, the newly-crowned world junior pole vault champion Germán Chiaraviglio made a temporary break from his home country of Argentina last year to train alongside the world’s best.
Every vaulter, given the chance, would do anything to train with world indoor and outdoor champion Yelena Isinbayeva, but for Chiaraviglio it was a need more than anything.
“People perhaps do not realise, but it is very difficult to train in Argentina,” said Chiaraviglio. “We do not have all the facilities needed for pole vault training.
“Two years ago I began training in Formia, Italy with Yelena Isinbayeva and her group and I consider them all to be great friends. I train there for two or three months each year during the Italian summer and they have great facilities for vaulting and gymnastics training.
“If I stayed in Argentina, it would make it very difficult for me to have a successful career,” he added. “And because of the hardships I face in training, it makes my gold medal doubly special.”
Leading in to the IAAF World Junior Championships, Chiaraviglio – the 2003 world youth champion and the reigning world junior silver medallist – was the overwhelming favourite to take the pole vault title after his world-junior-leading 5.70m.
“I tried not to let the pressure get to me,” said the world youth record-holder. “For an athlete, pressure can be a bad thing. You listen to people talking about you as the favourite and you feel expectation to perform well. Even though I knew I was in great shape, the pressure didn’t help me.”
An injury earlier in the year looked as though his hopes of winning gold would be dashed. But after having surgery, Chiaraviglio returned to training in March in a fight to find fitness for Beijing.
Nevertheless, just two months after resuming training, Chiaraviglio set his pre-Beijing best of 5.70m – a national senior record and South American junior record. It is a mark which he bettered by one centimetre to win the world junior title this week ahead of China’s Yang Yansheng.
“So happy,” is how Chiaraviglio described his feelings after the competition. “After the surgery I thought it would be difficult to jump high, so to come here and win with a personal best is amazing for me. It is the perfect end of my junior career.”
Television stations in Argentina broadcast the competition, which was an added boost to Chiaraviglio’s supporters back home. “It was the first time that an athletics event has been shown live on Argentinean television,” he explained. “My family and friends were able to see me compete and win gold, and that makes me feel very proud.”
And one family member in particular got closer to the action than the rest. Chiaraviglio’s father, who is also his coach, was present in the stadium and was overjoyed with the result.
Chiaraviglio, however, says that the set-up is not always easy. “On the one hand, it is good to have my father as a coach and I am happy with him, but sometimes it can create problems,” he says.
“You have to spend a lot of time together, and there can sometimes be tension. Luckily, the difficult moments are not very often and I must thank my father for handling things very well,” he added.
Next year Chiaraviglio will step up to the senior stage and it is a challenge which he relishes. “I’m going to work very hard in the coming years and return to Beijing in 2008. I know I have a lot of room to improve – I just need to work at it step by step.
“The main aim is to have a long career and I feel I have many more years left in this sport.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF