Pole vaulter Pena flies solo to Irish team-mates
IRISH pole vaulter Tori Pena had to use a different airline and airport in London to the rest of her Olympic team-mates because so few airlines will carry her poles.
Ryanair is one of the few firms that will carry her equipment, so she flew into Stansted with them and a courier truck was sent by the Irish team managers to pick up the athlete and her valuable, but over-sized equipment.
Pole vaulters carry a number of poles to competition and it is variation in flexibility, rather than length, that is the most important difference in them.
Poles can range in height from 10 to 17 feet, but getting them transported around the world is an occupational hazard for all polevaulters.
Pena, the all-Californian girl who qualifies for Ireland thanks to her Derry grandmother, is used to dealing with the issue.
"She's not the kind of girl to stress about anything. She's very easy to deal with and there was no major problem. It was just a matter of sending up a van to Stansted to pick up her poles," Irish athletics team manager Patsy McGonagle said.
All but two of Ireland's track and field athletes are now in London, with US-based Alistair Cragg joining them in the past week.
Ireland's fastest man, Paul Hession, has remained at home until today and sprint hurdles star Derval O'Rourke has also preferred to train in her home environs until later this week.
The track and field starts tomorrow when European cross-country champion Fionnuala Britton, 1,500m star Ciaran O'Lionaird and quarter-miler Joanne Cuddihy are the first Irish in action.
O'Rourke's qualifying begins next Monday and Hession's 200m heats, which will involve megastar Usain Bolt, take place on Tuesday next.
The track team and walkers have been using the Irish team's holding camp in Teddington and will not actually go into the athletes' village until a couple of days before their event.