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Introduction to the Pole Vault


Basic Skills:

Successful pole vaulters combine the speed and flexibility of a high jumper with good upper body strength. The pole vaulter sprints down a runway and plants his pole in the takeoff box. The vaulter then rides the pole over the crossbar and into the landing area, without knocking the crossbar off the uprights. Once the vaulter is airborne, the vaulter’s hands may not move along the pole until he or she releases the pole in order to clear the crossbar.


Competitors use their own poles, which may be made from any material or combination or materials, although the pole’s basic surface must be smooth. There are no restrictions regarding the pole’s length, diameter or weight.


As in the high jump, the competition generally begins at a relatively low height. Competitors have three opportunities to clear each height and have the option to pass at any given height. The vaulter who clears the greatest height is the winner.

Men's World Records:

For 10 years, the only competition Ukrainian Sergey Bubka had for the pole vault world records came from – Sergey Bubka. Bubka broke and re-broke the indoor and outdoor records 35 times between 1984-94. His outdoor best of 6.14 meters (20 feet, 1¾ inches) still stands as the outdoor world record. But Renaud Lavillenie of France broke Bubka's indoor mark in 2014, clearing 6.16/20-2½. Lavillenie's mark is accepted as the overall world record.

Women's World Records:

Russian Yelena Isinbayeva trained as an artistic gymnast from the ages of five to 15, then left the sport when she grew too tall (about 5-foot-8 ½). She began pole vault training in 1997 and within six years she’d broken the outdoor record for the first time.

Like Bubka before her, Isinbayeva made record-setting an annual affair for several years. She set the current outdoor mark of 5.06 meters (16 feet, 7¼ inches) in Zurich on Aug. 28, 2009. American Jenn Suhr owns the indoor world standard of 5.02 meters (16 feet, 5½ inches). Undoubtedly, the flexibility and body control Isinbayeva learned via gymnastics was helpful when she cleared the pole vault crossbar. Apparently not lacking in confidence, a July, 2007 post on her website declared, “My new world record is imminent!” She broke and re-broke the record several times afterward.

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