Swiss pole vaulter Angelica Moser (© YOG LOC)
It might be a slight exaggeration to say Youth Olympic Games champion Angelica Moser was born to pole vault, but if you were to put together all the ingredients to cook up the prototype athlete for her event, then she would be it.
A national junior gymnastics champion and the daughter of an Olympic decathlete, you can see why Moser – who set a national junior record of 4.36m en route to gold in Nanjing – is perfectly suited for the unique demands of her event.
Coupled with the fact that her older sister Jasmine competed for her country at the 2013 European Junior Championships in the pole vault, and their mother Monika was a former national standard heptathlete, it is easy to see why Moser has gravitated towards the pole vault.
Hailing from the small village of Andelfingen in the far north of Switzerland, sport has been a part of Moser's life from as long as she can remember. Taking up gymnastics from the age of three, her father, Severin, competed for Switzerland in the decathlon at the 1988 Seoul Olympics (he finished 27th) and she recalls her first athletics experience as a “six or seven-year-old.”
Starting out “running and jumping” and later moving into the heptathlon, it was five years ago when Moser first opted to give the pole vault a crack.
“My sister was already doing pole vault. I was doing gymnastics at the time and thought why not?” Moser explains of her decision.
“I remember I wasn't very good in my first competition,” she said. “I maybe only jumped two metres but I very much liked the feeling of flying through the air.”
Returning to competitive gymnastics, she secured the Swiss junior vault title but in 2011 she began training more seriously for the pole vault and the results followed. Later that year she cleared 3.40m and in 2012 improved her PB to 3.90m.
Last year, competing in her first major international meeting at the European Youth Olympic Festival in the Netherlands, she claimed victory with a personal best clearance of 4.07m. It was a pivotal moment in her career development.
“I was very nervous, but I realised (with victory) that all the hard work was starting to pay off,” she added.
It also crystallised in her a belief that to fully commit to athletics she would have to regretfully finally turn her back on gymnastics. It was a tough decision.
“It was hard (to quit gymnastics),” she said. “I have many good friends involved in the sport. They are like my second family, but I probably got too big (in size) for gymnastics.”
Under the coaching of Herbert Czingon and now fully focused on the pole vault, she has undergone a transformation in 2014.
Clearing 4.10m indoors, she has since gone from strength to strength. The first signs of her new-found progress arrived at the European Youth Olympic Trial event in Baku in June where she cleared a lifetime best of 4.20m.
Then earlier this month she soared above to 4.25m in Frauenkappelen before setting a Swiss junior record of 4.32m on her final pre-Youth Olympics outing in Zurich.
So how does she credit her phenomenal improvement in 2014?
“I think I'm faster and stronger, but I've also worked hard on my technique,” says Moser, who cites world pole vault record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva as her athletics idol. “My technique is still not perfect, but my take-off is way better.”
Which brings us neatly to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. According to the pre-event rankings, the anticipated battle for gold was expected to be between Moser and world youth champion Robeilys Peinado of Venezuela and so it proved.
The pair both cleared 4.10m at the first time of asking before 4.20m proved decisive in determining gold and silver. Moser sailed clear with her first attempt but Peinado failed to meet the challenge.
With the gold medal already in her pocket, the Swiss vaulter's coach asked her to the raise the bar to 4.36m which she cleared with her final effort to better her national junior record.
An ambitious attempt at a world youth best of 4.48m proved too much on that night, but no matter. It was mission accomplished.
“For me, the feeling of winning a gold medal and jumping a PB is perfect,” said Moser, who next year plans to target the European Junior Championships in Sweden. “I've dreamt about winning for so long and now it is true, it means everything to me.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF