by Nicolette Mok
Zacchaeus Yeo may only be three years old, but he has already been a regular fixture at national pole vault training sessions since he was an infant. The toddler has been living out the very hopes that his mother, Team Singapore pole-vaulter Rachel Yang, has for the nation’s upcoming crop of elite athletes.
A coach at the ActiveSG Athletics Club, 34-year old Yang strives to play a role in providing sporting opportunities to youths during her thrice-a-week training sessions for the club, in a bid to develop a new generation of sporting talent.
The Athletics Club, which was launched alongside the ActiveSG Basketball, Football, and Tennis Academies, is part of a national initiative that aims to bring affordable and quality programmes, as well as fully equipped training venues, to local youths.
On Rachel’s part, she also plans to share her expertise and experience as a national pole vault athlete, raising awareness of the event and bringing it to as many in the community as she can.
“A large portion of the population doesn't know much about pole-vaulting, and this is an avenue for us to reach out to the public. We want to introduce this sport to the public and find talent outside of the usual schools that offer pole-vaulting as a track and field event. At the moment, only a handful of schools have it. This Athletics Club will help us to reach out to a bigger group to find people with more potential and better talent,” she revealed.
Yang, who picked up pole-vaulting over ten years ago, started out as the only female in this event in Singapore. The event itself had, in fact, only introduced a category for women at the Olympics in 2000.
Stressing the importance of removing obstacles in the way of aspiring athletes who wish to train and compete, she related her own experience of having to pay her own way through overseas competitions and conferences: “I was the only female pole-vaulter in Singapore, and it was really difficult because there wasn’t any local competition. I was 23 when I started, which was considered quite old too.”
Nevertheless, the avid sportsperson – who had excelled in badminton, volleyball, javelin, and sprinting in her youth – persevered and eventually tasted success last year. In between starting a family with national pole vault coach David Yeo, juggling a full-time job, and completing a Masters degree in Business Administration, Yang clinched her first SEA Games medal (a silver) at the 28th SEA Games.
With her success, she now hopes to inspire a new generation of athletes towards all-rounded excellence. As she explained: “Role models are very important and actions speak louder than words!”
“I’m very happy that we have this Club now, so that we’re able to share our knowledge and experience, imparting our skills to the younger ones, especially those who don't have access to it,’ she continued.
Moreover, given the opportunities available today, she believes that the youths will be able to achieve much more than she has.
In the meantime, the ever-tenacious athletics star remains motivated as ever in her personal training pursuits. Having already succeeded at the SEA Games, she has now set her sights on a spot on Singapore’s 2020 Olympics contingent.
“After 2020, I’ll still continue training, but I wont be as competitive as I am now,” she stated.
“Singapore has a lot of talent and potential in this event, considering our small community of pole-vaulters achieving strong results. I’ll focus more on recruiting new talents and coaching. We definitely have the potential to excel on a bigger stage,” Yang said.