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Pole Vaulting History, Equipment & Records

Updated on November 9, 2014

Fierljeppen - Dutch Vaulting Sport

Dutch Vaulter crossing the water in the Dutch Vaulting sport called Fierljeppen,. Unlike Pole Vaulting which rewards heigth, Fierljeppen rewards distance.
Dutch Vaulter crossing the water in the Dutch Vaulting sport called Fierljeppen,. Unlike Pole Vaulting which rewards heigth, Fierljeppen rewards distance. | Source

American Cornelius Warmerdam 17 Year World Record Holder

Cornelius Warmerdam, American pole vaukter held the World's record for 17 years during the end of the bamboo pole period.
Cornelius Warmerdam, American pole vaukter held the World's record for 17 years during the end of the bamboo pole period. | Source

History of Pole Vaulting

People have been using poles as a means of passing over or across natural obstacles such as waterways, swamps, hedgerows for centuries. The English used poles to get across canals and waterways without getting wet. Venetian gondoliers are known to use their poles to get to and from their water craft.

Dutch Make Vaulting a Sport

The Dutch are thought to be the first to make a sport -- Fierljeppen (far leaping)-- out of the everyday need to vault over canals. Netherlands is a flat and wet country with fields crisscrossed with canals. To cross these canals, the Dutch have been using some form of poles as far back as history of the country as the 13th century when oil paintings showed us Dutchmen using poles to cross the canals.

A vault is actually a run to the pole, called a polsstok, leaping and grabbing the pole and climbing to the top of the pole while control its movement over the canal. ,The vaulter finishes by landing on a sand bed on the other side of the water. In many ways Fierljeppen is the early distance version of the Olympic pole vaulting we know today..

Modern Pole Vaulting

The first serious pole vaulting event took place in Cumbria, U.K around 1843 at the Ulverston Football Club in Cumbria. Modern competition began around the mid 19th century in Germany while today's pole vaulting technique started developing in the United States during the latter 1800s.

Initially, vaulting poles were cut from light but flexible materials such as bamboo. Poles were often taped to minimize cracking of the pole and to improve the grip. Later Swedish steel and Aluminum poles became more fashionable but serious vaulters continued to search for poles with more flexibility.

Fiberglass and Composite Poles

In the late 1950s, the sport saw the first flexible vaulting poles manufactured with fiberglass and/or carbon fiber. The modern day vaulting pole is made up of multiple layers of fiber and fiberglass composite materials. There are two kinds of fiberglass used for pole vaulting poles. They are E-glass, used for filament formation and continuous strands. and S-glass which has a high-strength property ideal for applications where tensile strength is critical.

Poles are manufactured with a very slight bend in the middle of the pole. This slight bend is put into the pole to assist the vaulter since the pole is designed to bend in order to catapult the vaulter upward. This is one of the major advantages of the fiberglass poles over their bamboo and metal predecessor's.

These new poles revolutionized vaulting and the World record began a dramatic climb. From June of 1940 until July of 1960 -- a period of over twenty years -- the world record advanced only.20m, from 4.60m to 4.80m. In the 21 years that followed, the World record advanced to 5.80m, an increase of a full meter.

20-Year Record Broken by Frenchman

Sergi Bubka was the master vaulter of the flexible-pole period, He was the first vaulter to clear 6 meters 6.00m., and was a six-time outdoor world champion, Bubka set new men's pole vaulting world records 35 times during his career. The Russian set the record in the 1993 Athletics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany,

But records are made to be broken. In February 2014 Renaud Lavillenie took one final vault after winning the event. The bar was set to one centimeter higher than Sergi's 21 year old record.

The 27 year old Frenchman, cleared the height on his first attempt to go one centimeter higher than Bubka's 1993 record. The Olympic champion Renaud Lavilleni broke Sergey Bubka's 21-year-old pole vault world record with a 6.16m which is just over 20 feet, 2.5 inches. leap in the Bubka's Ukrainian's home city of Donetsk

Sergi Bubka was one of the first to arrive in the pit to congratulate the young Frenchman on his new World's Record.

Renaud Lavilleni - Current World Record Holer

Renaud Lavillenie breaks Sergey Bubka's pole vault record by 1 centimeter
Renaud Lavillenie breaks Sergey Bubka's pole vault record by 1 centimeter

Stacy Dragila First Olympic Winner

Stacy Draglia at 2004 USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships
Stacy Draglia at 2004 USATF Indoor Track and Field Championships | Source

Women Vaulters Emerge as Pole Vaulting Becomes an Olympic vent

The first Olympic Games sanctioned for female pole vaulters was the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia when Stacy Draglia of the United States took the Gold metal. Her later accomplishments include the 1999 and 2001 world champion. She was also the 1997 world indoor champion, a world record holder, and a twice named the Jessie Owens Award winner. Her best mark in the pole vault is 4.83 meters, set in Ostrava, Australia in 2000.

The current Worlds Record holder is Russian Yelena Isinbayeva whose vault of 5.06 m (16 ft 7 in) was made in 2009 in Zurich, Switzerland.


Great Tips and Exercies for the Vaulter

What is the limit?

How High Can Vaulters Eventually Get (men)

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