Poles were used as a practical means of passing over natural obstacles in marshy places such as provinces of Friesland in The Netherlands, along the North Sea, and the great level of the Fens of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Artificial draining of these marshes created a network of open drains or canals intersecting each other. In order to cross these without getting wet, while avoiding tedious roundabout journeys over bridges, a stack of jumping poles was kept at every house and used for vaulting over the canals. Pole vaulting has been used by Venetian punters for moving to the shore from their boat. It has continued to be a folklore activity with annual competitions. Fierljeppen or broad-jumping with the pole, though the original form of the sport, has never found its way into global competition, the high jump being the only form recognized.
Modern competition began around 1850 in Germany, when pole vaulting was added to the exercises of the Turner gymnastic clubs by Johann C. F. GutsMuths and Frederich L. Jahn. The modern pole vaulting technique was developed in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. In Great Britain, it was first practiced at the Caledonian Games. Initially, vaulting poles were made from stiff materials such as bamboo or aluminum, pole vaulting success was also originally measured by distance rather than height as it is today. Later, the introduction of flexible vaulting poles made from composites such as fiberglass or carbon fiber allowed vaulters to achieve new heights. Physical attributes such as speed and agility are essential to pole vaulting effectively, but technical skill is an equally if not more important element. The object of pole vaulting is to clear a bar or stick supported upon two uprights without knocking it down.
Today, athletes compete in the pole vault as one of the four jumping events in track and field. It is also the eighth event in the decathlon. During a competition, a bar progression is chosen by an event official. The progression goes from an initial height, called the opening height (presumably a height that all competitors are capable of clearing), and progresses higher by even increments. Once the competitor enters at a certain height, he has three attempts to clear the bar. If the vaulter clears, even if the vaulter missed one of his attempts, he gets three fresh attempts at the next height. At any time, a vaulter may decide to pass on a height, coming in at a higher one. If a vaulter has used any of his attempts on the height he decided to pass, he takes those attempts with him and has fewer attempts on the higher height. A "no height", often denoted "NH", refers to the failure of a vaulter to clear any bar during the competition.
Having cleared the highest height, the last competitor remaining in the competition wins. Vaulters are placed first, second and so forth according to their highest cleared height and the number of attempts that were taken to clear that height. A tie can occur when two or more vaulters have the same number of misses at every height. Ties can be broken in what is known as a jump-off. A jump-off is a sudden death competition in which both vaulters attempt the same height, starting with the last attempted height. If both vaulters miss, the bar goes down by a small increment, and if both clear, the bar goes up by a small increment. A jump-off ends when one vaulter clears and the other misses.
The equipment and rules for pole vaulting are similar to the high jump. Unlike high jump, however, the athlete in the vault has the ability to select the horizontal position of the bar before each jump and can place it between 0 and 80 cm beyond the back of the box, the metal pit that the pole is placed into immediately before takeoff. If the pole used by the athlete dislodges the bar from the uprights a foul attempt is ruled, even if the athlete himself has cleared the height. An athlete does not benefit from quickly leaving the landing pad before the bar has fallen. There is an exception to this rule if the vaulter is vaulting outdoors and has made a clear effort to throw the pole back, but the wind has blows the pole into the bar; this counts as a clearance. If the pole breaks during the execution of a vault, the competitor will be allowed another attempt.
Poles are manufactured with ratings corresponding to the vaulter's maximum weight. Some organizations forbid vaulters to use poles rated below their weight as a safety precaution. The recommended weight corresponds to a flex rating that is determined by the manufacturer by placing a standardized amount of stress on the pole and measuring how much the center of the pole is displaced. Therefore, two poles rated at the same weight are not necessarily the same stiffness. Because pole stiffness and length are important factors to a vaulter's performance, it is not uncommon for an elite vaulter to carry as many as 10 poles to a competition. The effective properties of a pole can be changed by gripping the pole higher or lower in relation to the top of the pole. The left and right handgrips are typically about shoulder width apart. Poles are manufactured for people of all skill levels and body sizes, with sizes as small as 2.3 m feet to more than 6.4 m, and rated for vaulters weighing under 40 kg to over 100 kg.
As in the high jump, the landing area was originally a heap of sawdust or sand where athletes landed on their feet. As technology enabled higher vaults, mats evolved into bags of large chunks of foam. Today's high tech mats are solid pieces of foam usually 1-1.5 meters thick. Mats are growing larger in area as well, in order to minimize any risk of injury. Proper landing technique is on the back or shoulders. Landing on the feet must be trained out of the athlete, to eliminate the risk of spraining or breaking an ankle.
Rule changes over the years have resulted in larger landing areas and additional padding of all hard and unyielding surfaces.
The pole vault crossbar has evolved from a triangular aluminium bar to a round fiberglass bar with rubber ends. This is balanced on standards and can be knocked off when it is hit by a pole vaulter.
Although there are many techniques used by vaulters at various skill levels to clear the bar, the generally accepted technical model can be broken down into several phases, listed and described below:
A third form of swing is called the tuck and shoot. This is accomplished by tucking both legs in toward the chest rather than leaving the trail leg extended. This has the opposite effect of the double leg drop: it shortens the lower body about the rotational axis, making the swing faster, but lessening the pole-loading effect of the swing. Because a shorter rotational axis can make it more difficult to use larger poles than with a longer axis, the tuck and shoot is also not considered the conventional method. A successful tuck and shoot is exemplified by former American record-holder Jeff Hartwig.
The pole vault is exciting to watch because of the extreme heights reached by competitors, and the inherent danger of the activity, two elements which combine to make it popular with spectators.
All "6 metres club" members are men. The only woman to exceed 5 metres is Russian women's world-record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, who reached that height in 2005 and who has in total broken the outdoor women's world-record 24 times culminating in her current world record of 5.05 metres obtained in 2008 at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
|Name of athlete||Nation||Outdoors||Indoors||Year first|
|Sergey Bubka||/||6.14 m||6.15 m||1985|
|Maksim Tarasov||6.05 m||6.00 m||1997|
|Dmitri Markov||6.05 m||1998|
|Brad Walker||6.04 m||2006|
|Okkert Brits||6.03 m||1995|
|Jeff Hartwig||6.03 m||6.02 m||1998|
|Igor Trandenkov||6.01 m||1996|
|Timothy Mack||6.01 m||2004|
|Rodion Gataullin||/||6.00 m||6.02 m||1989|
|Yevgeniy Lukyanenko||6.01 m||2008|
|Tim Lobinger||6.00 m||1997|
|Toby Stevenson||6.00 m||2004|
|Paul Burgess||6.00 m||2005|
|Steven Hooker||6.00 m||2008|
|Jean Galfione||6.00 m||1999|
|Danny Ecker||6.00 m||2001|