Roth taking his “ultimate chance” as he leaps into Irish record books

by Stephen Findlater

Sean Roth following his leap into the Irish and Louisville record books. Picture: University of Louisville

Three weeks after a car crash, less time still since rolling both his ankles and just off a course of antibiotics, Sean Roth admits he could scarcely believe it when he cleared 5.31 metres last week to set a new Irish pole vault record.

Into the bargain, the 22-year-old Dundrum South Dublin AC member also bested the University of Louisville’s school record by 16 centimetres at the Doc Hale Elite meet at Virginia Tech.

It marks a super start for Roth’s collegiate career and he feels that his move stateside is bringing together all the elements of his much-travelled back-story perfectly.

He grew up in Dusseldorf, Germany but his Irish mother instilled a strong connection to Ireland to the point where they were researching ways of keeping that fire burning.

“She missed Ireland all our lives,” Roth told the Dublin Gazette. “We always found ways to get back as often as possible and see if there ever was a possibility to represent the country!

“My mum has a big connection with the Irish business network and through a friend of hers, [2012 Olympic high jumper] Deirdre Ryan, she got us in contact with DSDAC!”

Since first contact, Roth has been over for summer Championships since he was 14, culminating in appearances for Ireland at the European Under-20 and 23 championships in recent times.

There have been false starts, humourously when he set off as lead-off runner for a team championships 4x100m before realising the rest of his DSD team wasn’t on the track.

Athletics Ireland

That aside, he adds: “I have to say a huge thanks to Athletics Ireland and DSDAC for making this all happen. They have always believed in me at all times, helped to get everything done to compete internationally. It is a huge motivational booster.

“DSD were so nice and always took care of me. Whenever I wanted to come over, they would try and help me out wherever they could and made it all happen.”

It also helped lead a path to a two-year scholarship in Kentucky at Louisville, allowing him to put a real focus on his sport for the first time.

Throughout his undergrad in Cologne and Leverkusen, he was pretty much “on the road” for four years, juggling his training, studies and a couple of jobs at a time.

“My life was absolutely loaded, travelling 45 minutes each way to college. Now, it’s just two things – track and university. It is so different.

“I have all the possibilities you could imagine. It starts with prehab at 9am, having a physio available, go to practice, then rehab afterwards all within a day, seven days a week.

“You don’t have to pay for anything, you don’t have to drive anywhere – it’s all a five-minute walk. The support is outstanding and my coaches co-ordinate things perfectly; it’s totally connected so you never have double the workload you should be doing.”

Development

Crucially, it marries Roth’s background from Germany where he hails his coaches for their technical understanding of pole vault and its component parts. With his schedule, though, he was never able to push his physical limits.

“Developing myself as an athlete in terms of strength and conditioning, becoming faster, stronger – I never really had that opportunity until I came here. Being able to combine that as a pole vaulter has elevated everything I have done this year.

“It is the reason why I am here because if I wasn’t, I probably would have had to stop athletics and go work or try combine the two. Now, I have the ultimate chance to invest two years of my life, dedicate it to pole vault and see where it takes me.

“[That’s why] the national record is a big thing. I was looking for it for a while but hadn’t been close to jumping that high for a year and a half so I was amazed I could make it happen.”

Given a tumultuous three-week lead-up to the Doc Hale Elite, that is an understatement.

“I had just come out of a car crash three and a half weeks ago and rolled both my ankles in practice, strained my biceps and was on antibiotics a week before competing.

“I couldn’t believe it, what the heck is going on? With the car crash, I was really lucky. I had to jump to get away from it so the only thing that caught me was the windscreen.

“I got a cut, a few bruises and whiplash the next day. But the medical team took care of me really quickly so that was fine.

“Now, I just want to build on this. I have a competition next week, then the ACC conference games and then hopefully the NCAA, depending on my ranking.

“[Longer-term], I definitely want to try to go European Championships, World University Games and then Paris 2024. Olympics have always been a goal – I always make a list of what I need to do every year leading up to the Olympics to get there.”

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