Pole vaulting is a field event in which a person uses a long, flexible pole (which today is usually made either of fibreglass or carbon fibre) as an aid to leap over a bar. Pole jumping competitions were known to the ancient Greeks, as well as the Cretans and Celts. It has been a full medal event at the Olympic Games since 1896 for men and 2000 for women.
Each athlete can choose what height they would like to enter the competition. Once they enter, they have three attempts to clear the height. If a height is cleared, the vaulter advances to the next height, where they will have three more attempts. Once the vaulter has three consecutive misses, they are out of the competition and the highest height they cleared is their result.
Once the vaulter enters the competition, they can choose to pass heights. If a vaulter achieves a miss on their first attempt at a height, they can pass to the next height, but they will only have two attempts at that height, as they will be out once they achieve three consecutive misses. Similarly, after earning two misses at a height, they could pass to the next height where they would have only one attempt.
The competitor who clears the highest height is the winner. If two or more vaulters have finished with the same height, the tie is broken by the number of misses at the final height. If the tied vaulters have the same number of misses at the last height cleared, the tie is broken by the total number of misses in the competition. If there is still a tie for first place, a jump-off occurs to break the tie. Marks achieved in this type of jump-off are considered valid and count for any purpose that a mark achieved in a normal competition would.
A jump-off is a sudden death competition in which the tied 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. Each vaulter gets one attempt at each height until one makes and one 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 distance between the metal pit for the planted pole and the plane of the bar.
If the pole used by the athlete dislodges the bar from the uprights, a foul attempt is ruled, even if the athlete themselves has cleared the height. The 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 blown the pole into the bar; this counts as a clearance. This call is made at the discretion of the pole vault official.
If the pole breaks during the execution of a vault, it is considered an equipment failure and is ruled a non-jump, neither a make nor a miss. Other types of equipment failure include the standards slipping down or the wind dislodging the bar when no contact was made by the vaulter.
Each athlete has a set amount of time in which to make an attempt. The amount of time varies by level of competition and the number of vaulters remaining. If the vaulter fails to begin an attempt within this time, the vaulter is charged with a time foul and the attempt is a miss.
Poles vary in rigidity and length, both of which 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 a bit more than shoulder width apart.
2012 Olympic Champion: Renaud Lavillenie (FRA)
Olympic Record: 5.97m – Renaud Lavillenie (FRA – 2012)
World Record: 6.16m – Renaud Lavillenie (FRA – 2014; indoors)
British Record: 5.82m – Steven Lewis (2012)
2012 Olympic Champion: Jennifer Suhr (USA)
Olympic Record: 5.05m – Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS – 2008)
World Record: 5.06m – Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS – 2009)
British Record: 4.80m – Holly Bleasdale (2017)
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