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 Sergei Bubka had for the pole vault world records came from – Sergei Bubka. Bubka broke and re-broke the indoor and outdoor records 35 times between 1984-94. His outdoor mark of 6.14 meters, set in 1994, and his indoor best of 6.15 meters, set in 1993, still stand as world records. Bubka possessed sprinter’s speed with great strength, allowing him to use a heavier pole than most vaulters his size. Additionally, Bubka held the pole unusually close to the end to gain greater leverage.
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.
Isinbayeva has made record-setting an annual affair. She the current outdoor mark of 5.06 meters (16 feet, 7¼ inches) in Zurich on Aug. 28, 2009. She established the current indoor record of 5.00 meters (16 feet, 4¾ inches) in February 2009. Undoubtedly, the flexibility and body control she learned via gymnastics is helpful when she clears the pole vault crossbar. Apparently not lacking in confidence, a July, 2007 post on her website declared, “My new world record is imminent!” She's broken and re-broken the record several times since.