16 yearold pole vaulter Germán Chiaraviglio is the new rising star of Argentinean Athletics having conquered the first major international height of any career in athletics, the World Youth title earlier this year in Sherbrooke, Canada.
Luis Vinker brings us a feature length study of Chiaraviglio, his family, and his career to date.
On 12 July 2003, it was a windy and rather cold morning in Sherbrooke, Canada, at the World Youth Championships.
“We had got the new pole just one day before the finals and Germán was able to practice only a few jumps. Nevertheless, he decided to take part in the competition using that pole and not the old one, which had become too flexible”, says Guillermo Chiaraviglio, father and coach.
Germán Chiaraviglio was running a risk, but it was a distinctive feature of his personality and determination.
It was the Pole Vault final and just a couple of hours before another two South American athletes had reached glory.
Uruguay’s Andrés Silva, who won the combined events and Brazil’s Julio César Miranda de Oliveira, whose javelin throw reached over 80 metres. “Both of them together with Germán were our golden trio among junior athletes, and they filled us with pride”, said Roberto Gesta de Melo, from Consudatle.
Although Chiaraviglio only cleared his opening height of 4.60 on the second attempt but from there on it was evident that he was leading the competition. He jumped from 4.75 to 5.10, always ranking first. Russia’s Dmitry Starodubtsev (5.10) and Great Britain’s Steven Lewis (five centimetres less) reached their best individual performance, but that was not enough to defeat Chiaraviglio’s overwhelming win: 5.15 on his second jump.
“It is one of the happiest moments in my life”, he said. As usual, he had succeeded with strength, temperance and naturalness. And, at the side of the track, Guillermo could not be prouder: “It has been the greatest birthday present ever.”
Argentina’s First World champion
That win meant even more for Argentinean athletics, as Chiaraviglio was their first World champion at an IAAF event. Only two Argentineans had been able to obtain medals in those World Series events. Antonio Silio, at the Half Marathon in 1992 in Newcastle, and the Julio César Piñero, the Discus thrower, at the Junior World Championship in Lisbon, two years later.
Floods - Only two months before...
In the city of Santa Fe, late April 2003 will be remembered as the worst time ever in its four-century history, as floods reached the very core of the city and devastated homes, industries and dreams. Thousands of people became homeless and disaster took the leading role. The Chiavariglios tried to help as many people as they could in the family of athletics, and on those days, sport placed a lowly second in the priorities.
The CARD’s track where the Chiaraviglios and so many others trained and competed day after day, was completely flooded.
“We could not afford to lose any more days of training, since the competition was too close. We practiced wherever we could and however we could; the physical training took place in Santa Fe, and the technical training in some further spots”, tells Guillermo.
But, despite that situation, Germán Chiaravilgio cleared 5 metres for the first time by late May (5.11 exactly, in Rosario) and made unbelievable progress in the Pole Vault, including his winning 5.16 at the junior South American Championship in Guayaquil, and a successful performance at the World Youth Championships, and the Junior Pan-American Games in Barbados.
A family of athletes
Where does he come from? We have to understand that the Chiaraviglios are a family of athletes. Guillermo, the father, was five times national champion of Pole Vault, between 1975 and 1982, and he finished fourth twice at the South American Championships, with a record of 4.50 metres. An athletics coach himself, he is one of the leading coaches of the Argentinean team. Miriam Ermácora, his wife, was also a national athlete at that time, but she performed in the Shot Put.
Guillermo, the eldest son, finished his performance in the junior category this year, with a wonderful record of 4.85 metres, which placed him among the ten best Argentinean athletes of all times and gave him a bronze medal at the South American Junior Championship.
Of course given his brother's brilliance Guillermo's great progress risks being over-shadowed, but that is not the case here. As his mother tells: “If somebody who knows little about athletics says to him: ‘your younger brother beat you’, Guillermo has a clear view of the situation. He answers, ‘I was not beaten by my brother, but by the World champion.’ He is always beside his brother, helping her all the time, and he is happy about German’s success.”
14 year-old sister Valeria Chiaraviglio is not left behind either. She has already reached the Argentinean record of 3.40 metres in his Pole Vault category (cadets) and has a promising future in Combined Events...
I took up pole vault for fun
Germán remembers that “being immersed in that family environment, I have experienced athletics since I was very young. And, at the age of 10, I took up Pole Vault for fun.”
That early start in one of the most demanding athletic disciplines, since it combines speed, strength and coordination as no other discipline does, would be a key factor.
“Germán learned the technical basis of pole vault at an early age. And now he performs naturally, almost automatically. In that regard, we would say that there is not much left to learn for him. And he could devote the coming years to strengthen his body, within the normal patterns”, explains Juan Alberto Scarpin, vice-chairman of the Argentinean Athletic Federation, who has always assisted Germán.
IAAF Regional Development Centre
The CARD headquarters in Santa Fe, are also the headquarters of the IAAF Regional Development Centre. High profile courses and competitions are held there, and champions like Juan Ignacio Cerra, Hammer throw gold medallist in the last Pan-American Games, were trained there. “An environment filled with athletics, where Germán and his brothers have always been”, remembers Miriam.
Although he started performing in competitions as a child, he was free of excessive pressure. The records came naturally. He ended year 2002 as Junior South American champion, with an individual best performance of 4.81 metres, a remarkable record for a 15 year old. Nobody could imagine that, the following season, he would clear 51 centimetres higher!
Germán Chiaraviglio was born on 16 April 1987, and he is an ordinary teenager. He likes hanging out with friends, modern music and surfing the Web. His sports performance has not changed his personality. Is there any difference? “Well, he feels a bit strange about giving so many interviews”, tells his mother.
He defines himself as an “average student” and has one year left at Sara Faisal High School, where he attends every morning. Not long ago, he shared athletics with football, playing as forward for Quilla, in the Santa Fe league. But he had to quit... He has devoted three hours a day to athletic training since he was 16. “Since we came back from the world tour at Sherbrooke, the training focused on the physical aspect, we tried not to overwhelm him with jumps”, confides his father.
And, since he came back last July, after his world success and a win at the Junior Pan-American Games in Barbados, he has been surrounded by tributes and receptions. He had to make up school classes and, at the end of the athletic season, he made further remarkable progress when he cleared 5.32 metres. This mark, among others, is the second best in the history of Argentinean athletics, just behind the Javier Benítez’s record (5.40). But it should be noted that Germán has three more years left before hitting senior level.
“So far, we will try to make him perform within his age group, so that he can enjoy himself and be free of any pressure”, explain his parents. They know his son’s future is as promising as his deeds. “He is the jewel of Argentinean Athletics, we want to protect him and to support him as much as possible. But, in order to do that, we have to make plans on the long run and make sure that he has everything he needs,” concluded Scarpin.
Luis Vinker for the IAAF