A lack of support is stunting the development of pole vaulting as a sport in Ireland, claims DCU student and athlete Brian Flynn.
“Although the sport is growing in popularity the whole time, there’s simply not enough resources and equipment there,” alluded Flynn.
“Younger kids are very interested in the sport and at competitions the fields are always stacked with participants.
“However, the equipment is very expensive and you’re talking about young athletes having to travel to Dublin or Tipperary to compete.
“If kids don’t have the opportunity to try the sport they’ll never know if they have a penchant for it.
“I think that’s probably the main reason why we’re not really seeing Irish pole vaulters pushing boundaries.”
Indeed, never has an Irish-born pole vaulter qualified for European or World Championships. However, Ireland have been represented at these major championships by athletes of dual citizenship.
Tori Pena, a native of California, qualified to represent Ireland on the basis that her grandmother was born in Derry. She became the first ever pole vaulter to represent Ireland at the Olympics in London in 2012, followed by Rio in 2016.
Flynn is not irked by non-Irish born athletes representing Ireland at the Olympics.
“There’s no pole vaulters from Ireland on the brink of qualifying for any major championships so it doesn’t bother me at the moment.
“Perhaps it would need to be looked at in the future if an Irish born athlete’s path was being blocked, but for now it’s insignificant.”
A member of Lusk Athletic Club, Flynn is part of the younger generation of the club that represent a changing of the guard of sorts.
“Traditionally, Lusk was all about distance running and is home to many distance runners.
“Now though, the younger athletes tend to be opting for sports such as pole vaulting, instead of distance running.
“My sister also competes in pole vaulting and one of my best memories in the sport coincided with one of hers.
“During my Leaving Cert year, we were both competing on the same weekend. On the Saturday she won a national gold medal, and the following day I took a national gold medal too, so that has to go down as a very special moment.”
Flynn’s own involvement with the sport came rather out of the blue.
“I used to do a lot of hurdling and was training one day in Lusk.
“The door was open to the indoor training centre. I saw this athlete using a tick to fling himself into the air, so naturally I was curious.
“When I asked the coach who was present about the sport, it emerged that there was a number of young athletes interested in the sport. Soon after, a pole vaulting workshop took place, and my interest just grew and grew from that point on.”
The coach who Flynn spoke to on that day, Noelle Green, is his present coach, and has had a massive influence on his career.
Flynn is aiming to branch out in his athletic career, targeting a career in Decathlon. He views 2017 very much as a year of transition.
“I’m training six days per week and sometimes twice a day. I’m spending a lot of time working on the technical aspects of the various events, as well as putting a lot of effort into my strength and conditioning in the gym.
“Obviously the pole vault is one of my major strengths and I’m quite confident in my sprinting ability too.
“There’s a 100-metre dash, 110-metre hurdles and a 400-metre run and a 1500-metre run, so I feel those would be my strongest events.
“My body type is less suited to jumping and throwing, so events like shot put and the high jump wouldn’t come as naturally to me, but they’re definitely events in which I’ve massive potential to improve.”
Much of the past year has been spent battling injuries and as such the North County Dublin man refuses to look too far into the future.
“Lately I’ve been having problems with the patella tendon in my knee and my right hamstring has been quite tight and there’s been a few tweaks so my training pattern hasn’t been as smooth as I would have liked.
“My goal for now is to be competitive and to qualify for a European Championship. Obviously every athlete aspires to be an Olympian but there’s little point even talking about that because there’s so much work to be done.”
In order to get away from his rigorous training programme, Flynn recently joined the DCU canoe club and will compete at the upcoming Inter-varsities competition.
He is a self-admitted addict of coffee and is passionate when speaking on the subject.
Indeed, Flynn will need to call upon all of his energy reserves when he competes next week at the National Indoor Championships, and hopefully in the future on fields further afar.