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An Illustrated History of Pole Vault

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The early days of pole vault
An Illustrated History of Pole Vault

Harry Babcock at the 1912 Olympics

IOC Olympic Museum/Allsport/Getty Images
The precise origin of pole vaulting isn't known. It was likely discovered independently in a variety of cultures as a way of surmounting physical obstacles, such as streams or irrigation ditches. Egyptian relief sculptures from approximately 2500 B.C. depict warriors using poles to surmount enemy walls.

The first known pole vault competitions were held during the Irish Tailteann Games, which date back as far as 1829 B.C. The sport was an original modern Olympic event in 1896.

Harry Babcock gave the U.S. its fifth consecutive Olympic pole vault championship (not including the semi-official 1906 event) with his victory in 1912. His 3.95-meter effort was exactly two meters less than the winning vault in 2004.

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