Fil-Am pole vaulters eye 1-2 finish in SEA Games


MANILA, Philippines — Filipino-American athletes Natalie Uy and Alyana Nicolas will be shooting for a 1-2 finish in the women’s pole vault competitions of the 30th Southeast Asian Games athletic competitions.

Both Uy and Nicolas are now in the United States in the final phase of their preparations for the SEA Games slated from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 at the 20,000-seat New Clark City athletics’ stadium inside the sprawling 9,500-hectare NCC sports complex.

“Both Natalie and Alyana are serious and hardworking athletes, who always want to improve and push the envelope. Natalie is now in Arkansas training under Sam Bell of the well-known Arkansas-based Bell Sports. Alyana is in San Jose, California, training under 1991 SEA Games gold medalist, Fil-Am pole vaulter, Edward Lasquete. I’m hoping for a 1-2 finish in the women’s pole vault of the SEA Games,” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association President Philip Juico.

Uy first made waves in the country during the 2019 Philippine National Open Athletics Championships in March at the Ilagan City Sports Complex, where she clinched the pole vault gold with a record-smashing 4.12 meters right in her first try to shatter an 11-year national women’s record of 4.11 meters recorded by Deborah Samson at the 2008 California Regionals.

Nicolas grabbed the silver with a leap of 3.8 meters.

A month later, Uy captured a bronze medal in the Asian Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, where she reset her own Philippine record with her 4.20 meters behind Chinese star Li Ling’s 4.61 meters and compatriot Xu Hiquin’s 4.36 meters. That was the same Asian tournament, where Ernest John Obiena vaulted to the Philippines’ only gold medal with a championship mark of 5.70.

In the coming SEA Games, the 24-year-old Uy wants to match her personal-best of 4.30 meters, which she tallied last year in Spain, where she spent most of her training while waiting for her citizenship.

Her 4.30-m pole vault leap is more than enough to break the winning 4.10 meters of Thailand’s Chayanisa Chomchuendee in the 2017 SEAG in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Uy could have campaigned for the national team as early as last year in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, but was only able to secure her Philippine passport mid-August when the quadrennial sports spectacle has already started.

“There would be no hiccups like that this time,” Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez said. “Government has also made sure that the athletes’ training is funded. It’s already near the main days and here are the athletes about to close their various camps.”

“I’m just excited to be here. It’s a dream come true for me to come here,” said the Eastern Michigan University standout during her National Open stint.

“It’s all worth it to be here. I love being here. I’ve been working to come here for a while, working on my citizenship and figuring out all the hurdles to get here,” added Uy, whose dad is from Cebu.

Like Uy, Nicolas is thrilled to be representing the Philippines after moving to the US since her childhood.

“I was born in Quezon City but I grew up in Pagsanjan, Laguna,” the 24-year-old vaulter from California State Northridge said. “I’m very excited. The Filipino people here are very welcoming. It’s really fun to see everybody working together and I’m just really excited for all the people watching us even in practice. It’s really awesome.” (LOredo/IAMIGO/CNS)



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