Originally poles were used as a means of passing over obstacles in different terrain.Over time pole vaulting has changed very little, except for what the athlete is trying to achieve. Originally pole vaulting was for distance jumping and such competitions are still held on an annual basis in the Netherlands.
One of the earliest pole vaulting competitions where height was measured rather than distance took place in Ulverston Cumbria in 1843.
Initially pole vault poles were made from stiff materials such as wood or metal, eventually progressing onto bamboo poles which would very slightly flex giving the pole vaulter the chance to clear higher heights.
Now poles come in all shapes and sizes made from fiberglass or carbon fiber and are manufactured all over the world, mainly by the two companies Pacer & UCS Spirit.
Pole vault consists of several stages including:
The running up
The planting of the pole
Pushing away the pole
Each stage is perfectly timed and has to be executed within a fraction in order to achieve the much wanted perfect vault.
The standards achieved by vaulters have progressively improved due to the fact that the equipment they use has also improved. From planting the pole tip into sand and landing on sand or sand bags to now planting the pole into a concrete vault box dug specially at an angle, there has certainly been a move towards more precision in the sport.
The progression of pole vault has been obvious, especially in the women’s event. Yelena Isinbayeva has taken the event to new heights and is still the only woman to have ever cleared more than 5m.
If you’re looking for a legend in the world of pole vaulting, then look no further than Sergey Bubka of the Ukraine. He won 6 World Championship golds, one Olympics and set the world record 35 times indoors and outdoors. Both records still stand at 6.15m and 6.14m respectively.
At the moment only two athletes seem to be approaching the heights Bubka achieved some 17 years ago.
Australian Steve Hooker has a personal best of 6.06m - this makes him the second highest vaulter in history behind Bubka.
Renaud Lavillenie set a lifetime best of 6.03m this year at the European Indoor Championships.
Pole vaulting at London 2012 will certainly be worth watching if such talented athletes are planning to perform.
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