SASHA Zhoya is only 14 but has already cultivated one of the most important traits of an elite athlete – he saves his best performances for the biggest stages.
In a track and field master class, the Melville Roar Athletics Club standout claimed five gold medals at the Australian National Athletics Championships, setting two world records for his age group along the way.
Sasha announced his presence by smashing his previous personal best by 12cm to clear 4.92m and win the under-17 pole vault by more than half a metre – the highest mark ever obtained by a 14-year-old boy.
He followed that up by running his first sub 14 second 110m hurdles, also in the under-17 age group, crossing the line in 13.6 seconds to secure both the gold medal and the fastest time ever run by someone his age.
“The first gold was actually the under-17 pole vault. Before the winning jump I was a bit too hyped up, my coach had to walk over and calm me down,” Sasha said.
“You have to put every piece of the puzzle together to make a jump of that height and it all went perfectly.
“As I was falling after clearing the bar it felt like I was flying, time seemed to slow down and when I hit the mat I was just so happy.”
After a less than ideal start to the 110m hurdles, including making contact with the second hurdle, Sasha drove home his class to power away from the rest of the field to claim his second gold of the competition.
Further gold medals followed in the long jump (under-16), 200m sprint (under-16) and Sasha backed up in under-16 pole vault to place himself squarely in the eye of selectors ahead of the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics in October next year.
“Every time I compete in a big arena or in front of a big crowd I do tend to perform a little bit better,” Sasha said.
“You do feel the nerves but I try to feed off all of the energy and just focus on my own race or event.”
Alex Parnov, Sasha’s pole vaulting coach at the WA Institute of Sport, said the Coolbellup resident had a long road ahead of him but possessed all the tools to one day represent Australia on the international stage.
“Sasha is obviously an extremely talented boy; no one in history has pole vaulted as high as he has at his age,” Parnov said.
“He has also only been doing pole vault for less than two years, so he is still very new to the sport and a has a lot of areas to improve but it already looks very promising.”
Parnov, who coached Steve Hooker to Olympic gold at Beijing in 2008 and has also worked with former world record holder Emma George and former world champion Dmitri Markov, said Sasha would continue to compete in multiple disciplines until he approached 18.
“Sasha sprints, he does long jump, hurdles, gymnastics, yoga; all of that is part of a program designed to develop his body to its best capability,” Parnov said.
“We are also only now really starting to introduce him to strength and conditioning in the weights room which will make sure he will develops evenly.”
Selection for the Youth Olympic Games begins later this year and only 12 athletes from all of Australia will attend.
“Even though Sasha will only just be 15 he has a strong chance of being chosen because he can compete on the world stage in multiple events,” Parnov said.
MELVILLE Roar Athletics Club recorded a number of other impressive performances at the Australian National Athletics Champions, with both 16-year-old Caitlin Blackman and 18-year-old Lauren Wright securing positions in the Australian team travelling to the Oceania Games in Fiji in June.
Caitlin won silver in the under-18 long jump and bronze in the under-18 triple jump while Lauren brought home silver in the gruelling under-20 400m hurdles.
Lara Ilievski won bronze in the under-18 javelin, Luke Shaw finished third in the under-17 1500m and Kiara Speechley and Georgia Boxley rounded out the medal haul with bronzes in their respective relay events.