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Bud Held 80 Years Old Pole Vaulter

Updated on September 28, 2010

Still pole vaulting at 80 years old.

From vaulting in high school on a vaulting pole made of bamboo, to the modern fiberglass or carbon fiber poles of today, Bud Held has seen the event of pole vaulting evolve over his many years of jumping.  At the young age of 80, Bud Held set the world record in his age class of 80-84 in SpokaneWashington.  On his third and final attempt he cleared the record height of 8 feet, 81/4 inches. 

Bud Held, one amazing pole vaulter.

Still going strong at 80 years old, Bud Held holds the world record for his age group.
Still going strong at 80 years old, Bud Held holds the world record for his age group.

“I was relieved I finally got over that thing,” said Held. “I was having a bad day. I just couldn't get it together. My legs were tired and weak. I forced myself to do it and finally got over the darn thing.”


Pole Vaulting, Javelin, and the High Jump, Bud Held does it all.

Just this last October, (2008) Bud Held bested his previous record and vaulted 9 feet. Held, unsure of his future ability to continue to compete due to a recent rotator cuff surgery and five knee operations as a result of the sport, may be ending his jumping career as world record holder in his age class.

Not only does Bud Held hold the record for pole vaulting in his age class he also has set world records in the javelin, and the high jump.

Pole Vaulting partners.

Nadine O'Connor is the womens pole vaulting world record holder for her age group.
Nadine O'Connor is the womens pole vaulting world record holder for her age group.

Nadine O'Connor is a world champion record holder too.

Nadine O’Connor, Bud’s 66 year old partner, also holds the world record for women’s pole vaulting in two age groups, with her personal best of 10 feet, 4 3/4 inches. O’Connor did not even take up the sport of pole vaulting until she was in her late 50’s.

Nadine O'Connor

Bud Held, at his personal vaulting pit.

With no other options left for places to vault, Bud Held and Nadine O'Connor purchased some property and built their own pit.
With no other options left for places to vault, Bud Held and Nadine O'Connor purchased some property and built their own pit.

Where does an 80 year old pole vaulter practice their vaulting?

Pole vaulting is challenging for anyone, but imagine doing it with a body that typically rebels at that age when doing every day performances. It is challenging to deal with the fear factor, training schedules, and the everyday aches and pains associated with the sport and age, but the ultimate challenge came by way of finding a place to practice.

Training at UCSD for years near their home near San Diego, California, Held and O’Connor were forced to find another venue when the campus closed the pole vaulting facility to the public. They tried to find a local high school to practice in but the liability risk was too great for the schools to consider this request.

Undaunted, Hale and O’Connor solved the problem by purchasing a piece of property in their area and building a 100-foot runway and 3 foot deep pit in the backyard to practice in. Held also purchased a never-used set of foam pits from a high school in Saugus that had never needed to use them.

It is never too late to learn to Pole Vault.

What's ahead for Bud Held?

What are Bud Hale’s plans for his future in pole vaulting? Besides helping O’Connor set more records he plans on focusing his energy on his private athletic goals. Don Pellman of Santa Clara, California is 93 years old and had cleared 6 feet in a pole vault when he was 90.

“When I bought this place, I figured why not vault another 10 years. If Pellman's doing it, why can't I?” declared Hale.

Way to go Bud Hale you are a “Golden” medal vaulter!

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    • profile image

      Stanley 

      7 years ago

      I met Bud in SD about 3 years, left an impression on me that I should never give myself some stupid excuses for not moving body when I get old!

      Go BuD!

    • jacobkuttyta profile image

      Siny J 

      8 years ago from Delhi, India

      O My God! I can't believe, Wonderful

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 

      8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      OMGosh this is amazing. I am so impressed. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • cristina327 profile image

      Maria Cristina Aquino Santander 

      8 years ago from Manila

      This is indeed a very encouraging and very inspiring hub. Thank you for sharing it. I am inspired to live and be more active in life.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      8 years ago from California

      Thanks DeBorrah. I totally agree with you. These two people are truly inspiring. They both had a dream to pole vault, and made it happen. Blessings to you as well.

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 

      8 years ago

      A great hub! How inspiring to see an elderly couple working together and breaking records reaching higher heights!

      Blessings

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      8 years ago from California

      So true Nancy. Bud Held and Nadine O'Connor are prime examples of what can be accomplished if we set our mind and body to it!

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      8 years ago

      What an amazing individual! Having an interest and maintaining good health lets us pursue our hobbies and dreams once we reach our senior years…Good for Bud!

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