Pole vaulting has progressed strongly throughout Olympic history. William Hoyt won the initial pole vault event in 1896 with a jump of 3.3 meters (10 feet, 10 inches). Improved technique and significantly stronger poles helped 2008 gold medalist Steven Hooker clear 5.96 meters (19 feet, 6½ inches), while women's champion Yelena Isinbayeva topped 5.05 meters (16 feet, 6¾ inches).
About Olympic Pole Vault:
Similar to the high jump, strategy is important in the pole vault as elite performers frequently pass at lower heights to save energy, and occasionally pass at greater heights in an attempt to psych out an opponent.
Olympic Pole Vault History:
The U.S. once dominated this sport like no other, winning 16 consecutive men's championships (not including the semi-official 1906 event) from 1896 through 1968. The U.S. men regained their pre-eminent position in the sport in 2000 and 2004, winning both the gold and silver medals in both Olympics, although Australia's Steven Hooker triumphed in 2008. Women are relative newcomers to Olympic pole vault, as 2012 marks just the fourth women's competition.
Action Image Gallery:
Pole vaulters from across the globe leap into action in this image gallery.
Take a look at the top 2012 Olympic pole vault hopefuls, from the U.S. and around the world, then catch up with some familiar names from the past with these selections.