Interesting Facts About Pole Vaulting

March 27, 2018
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The pole vault is one of the most exciting and unique track and field events performed, which is why it attracts a large number of competitors and spectators. However, the history and finer details of the sport are equally as fascinating as is the drama it produces. Here are a few interesting facts about pole vaulting:

Pole Vaulting Has a Rich Sporting History

The idea of using spear-like objects to clear objects can be dated back to Ancient Greek times. Historians have found paintings depicting this sporting activity back to around 500 B.C. Those makeshift pole vaults are believed to have been spears that had previously been used for battle.

Pole vaulting appeared in the first modern Olympics way back in 1896, with William Hoyt winning the gold for the USA with a height of 3.30m. While women have been competing in official competitions for many decades, it wasn’t until Sydney 2000 that it became an Olympic event. The gold medal was won by Stacy Dragila for team USA.

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The World Record Stands at Over 20ft!   

On February 21, 1993, Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka became the first man to ever clear a height of over 20ft by clearing 20’2” (6.15m) in Donetsk. Incredibly, that was the same city that Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie set a new best in 2014 by clearing an extra half an inch to record a height of 6.16m.   

The women’s record stands at 16’7” (5.06m) and was set in 2009 by Russian starlet Yelena Isinbayeva. She also holds the Olympic record at 16’ 6.75” (5.05m), which was registered in Beijing 2008. The men’s Olympic holder is Thiago Braz da Silva, who set a record of 19’ 9.75” (6.03m) in Rio 2016.

It’s Not Just a Stick   

The modern pole used for competitive action is manufactured from a combination of metal and fiberglass to produce a little bend. While you might not think it, this is the result of technical brilliance which has developed over the course of several generations.

Poles have previously been crafted from wood, usually ash, as well bamboo poles before moving to aluminum. Those tech advancements have been one of the chief reasons why today’s pole vaulters can clear almost double the first Olympic record. Although, of course, training and human evolution do play important roles too.

The Vaulting Approach Is At Least 40m Long!

It needs to be too, given the run-up and size of the pole. There is no set rule on the pole length, but the box which competitors place their poles is just 15cm wide at the back (60cm at the front). As for the crossbar that must be cleared, the official width is 4.5m. A successful jump is one in which the bar does not fall. There are other rules that competitors must adhere to as well. The top hand must remain in the same place while the bottom hand must not overlap it on the pole. As for the approach, athletes may place up to two markers for guidance.

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