Raising the bar

Sean Lim (left) and Chan Sheng Yao (rigt) are two pole vaulters who have been leapfrogging each other for the national record in the past year

It is a friendly rivalry that could potentially vault Singapore to another track and field medal at next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games.

Just two weeks after Sean Lim raised the national men's pole vault mark to 4.90 metres, 17-year-old Chan Sheng Yao rewrote the record by one centimetre when he cleared 4.91m at the Singapore Youth and Junior Athletics Championships last Sunday.

The Hwa Chong Institution JC 2 student, who first broke the national record last April when he cleared 4.82m, told The New Paper: "I'm very excited to set another personal best and national record after almost a year.

"Prior to last year's SEA Games, I suffered some injuries like a heel contusion and a wrist injury, so I'm happy to recover and create this new mark. "Sean is like a big brother whom I look up to, and this friendly competition that we have definitely helps to raise the bar.

"The five-metre mark is definitely achievable for us, and we will try our best to clear this as soon as possible as this is also the qualifying mark for this year's Asian Games."

Sean, a 20-year-old who is set to start medical school, is another bright prospect who has broken the national record four times since overtaking Mok Hay Foo's 18-year-old mark of 4.66m by clearing 4.80m in 2011 as a 17-year-old.

He told TNP: "While I'm disappointed my record lasted just two weeks, I'm happy for Sheng Yao and our coach David Yeo, who has guided two athletes to this level. "It's a strong motivation for us to have each other clearing similar heights, so that we can push each other.

"I'm already looking forward to the Singapore Athletics Association Track and Field Series 3 Meet to break the record again."

For now, the plaudits belong to Sheng Yao, and Yeo added: "I really hope he can win and break the national schools record at the national schools championships again, something he has done every year since he was in Sec 2.

"I would say that Sheng Yao is like a scientist whose vaults are based on speed and power, while Sean is like an artist, who focuses more on technique.

FRIENDLY RIVALRY

"It's possible that this friendly rivalry between them will help them clear the psychological barrier of 5m soon. "For either of them to win a medal at the SEA Games, they may need to clear more than 5m, maybe 5.20m or 5.30m.

"Last year, 5m was good enough for bronze, but the rest of the juniors in South-east Asia are also doing well and 5m could be good enough only for fifth. "It will be tough as the level will not remain the same but, if Sean and Sheng Yao get over 5m as soon as possible, they could well go on to even greater heights."

Lim finished joint-fifth at last December's SEA Games in Myanmar, posting a best effort of 4.80m, while Sheng Yao came in eighth in 4.60m.

Thailand's Kreeta Sintawacheewa took gold with 5.15m, Malaysia's Iskandar Alwi bagged the silver (5.10m) and Thailand's Sompong Saombankuay picked up the bronze (5m).

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