Acid test awaits pole-vaulter Natalie Uy in Atlanta, as she begins road to Olympics

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Aug 11 2020 07:47 PM

Filipina SEA Games champ Natalie Uy will move to Atlanta in September to train with an elite group of pole vaulters under a top-class coach in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics next year. Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News/file

Shifting training gears, Southeast Asian Games gold medalist and Olympic hopeful Natalie Uy will move to Atlanta, Georgia, next month to work out with an elite group of pole vaulters under coach and former world men’s pole-vault champion Brad Walker. 

“This is exciting that I am changing training situations to be among four pole vaulters who are at a very high level. It will be beneficial for me,” the Ohio-based Uy said in a webcast on Saturday hosted by former skateboarding chief Monty Mendigoria.

The Southeast Asian champion bared that among those in the group is Ohio native Katie Nageotte, who jumped 5.92 meters at the Life University meet in Marietta, Georgia last Aug. 1 and is currently ranked No. 5 in the World Athletics international ratings. 

Uy, who cleared 5.25 meters in clinching the gold in her SEA Games debut at New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas town, Tarlac last December, said also joining her under the tutelage of Walker, a nine-time US men’s pole vault champion, are Canadian Robin Bone and American Kirsten Brown, who have a personal bests of 4.36 and 4.70 meters, respectively.

The height of 4.70 meters is the Olympic qualifying standard in women’s pole vault for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year. 

“I was praying to God, if you want me to go the Olympics, please provide me with a situation that will allow me to get there. And this transpired. If this is meant to happen I am in the right group to make it happen,” Uy said. “I will be training with some of the best in the world.”

PH ATHLETICS BODY TO SHOULDER EXPENSES

The former Eastern Michigan University varsity mainstay added that her roommate will be Nageotte at the training camp, “so I get to learn and train with her (better).”

Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico confirmed that Uy would be training under the famed American coach and that the expense would be funded by the Philippine Sports Commission.

“We have made arrangements with the PSC so that Natalie can continue her Olympic preparations under Walker and hopefully the funds will be available for her training,” Juico said.

Uy said the prospect of training with top-class athletes gave her extra motivation in her bid to qualify for the Olympics, because “if my training partner jumps higher (than me) I am going to try and close that gap. So I think this (training camp) is really big.”

Currently recovering from an injury to her right hand, which she suffered during recent training, she said this was in contrast to her previous workouts, where “I was sort of the best while training with high-schoolers so you aren’t able to push yourself that much.”

Uy said the hand was healing and that she would take the entire month of August off in preparation for training camp in Atlanta the first week of September.

“Thankfully there were no bones broken and only the skin and tissue was cut,” she said. 

While the 4.70-meter Olympic cut may seem far-fetched at the moment, the comely athlete, who has a personal best of 4.30 meters, said there was still a way for her to make it to Tokyo through the world rankings.

NOT DETERRED BY THE ODDS

“If I wind up in the top 32 at the end of the Olympic qualifying deadline next year then I can still make it to the Tokyo Olympics,” said Uy, 25, who is currently ranked No. 74, with 21 of the 32 slots already secured. 

“This is why we will be eyeing to clear around 4.60 meters to reach that goal and, of course, 4.70 meters as well.”

Uy, whose father is Filipino, disclosed that seeing action in the Olympics seemed like a distant dream when she was younger but that competing for the Philippines has opened doors and opportunities “that you can’t ever imagine.”

“So at this point, I say, ‘Why not (dream for the Olympics).’ Pole vaulting has brought me this far and I have to go all the way,” she said, “so it’s all or nothing, 100 percent or nothing.” 

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