Pole vaulting comes under the category of Track and Field. Humans use a long, flexible pole to aid them in jumping over a horizontal bar that is set very high off the ground. Originally, poles were constructed of stiff materials like bamboo and aluminum. In these modern times, these poles are made out of fiberglass or carbon fiber. Pole vaulting was known to the ancient Greeks, Cretans, and Celts. It has been a full medal Olympic sport for men since 1896 and only since 2000 for women!
It is typically one of four major jumping events. Pole vaulting is unusual; in that it does require a certain amount of specialized equipment. Most jumping sports, at least for humans, only require a good pair of sneakers. Some elite pole vaulters have a background in gymnastics, but it isn’t required. Since running speed may be the most important skill required, that does put us frogs at a bit of a disadvantage.
As for its history, poles were used to catapult people over natural objects such as marshy places, in the Netherlands, along the North Sea, and even a few places in Great Britain. And it is thought to be that this utilitarian use of poles to cross swampy places, was the beginning of pole vaulting as a sport. Modern pole vaulting competition began in 1850 in Germany. In Great Britain, it was first practiced at the Caledonian Games, Scotland, in 1899. At the US Naval Academy, as early as the 1890’s, pole vaulting was practiced as a competitive sport.
Since the high jump and the pole vault are both vertical jumps, the competitions are held similarly. Each athlete can choose what height they wish to enter the competition. They have three attempts to clear that height. If they fail on all three, they are eliminated from the competition. If the vaulter clears the height on one of his three attempts, he then moves forward to the next height. The competitor who clears the highest bar is declared the winner. If there is a tie in the first-place competition, then a jump-off is conducted to break the tie. The jump-off ends when one vaulter clears the bar and the other one misses. It’s a pretty simple and straight-forward game to learn…and to watch. But not so simple to master.
Currently, Renaud Lavillenie of France, holds the record for the highest jump; 20 feet 2 ½ inches. He made this jump on the 15th of February 2014. The highest recorded jump for women, to date, is 16 feet, 7 inches and was made by a Russian in 2009.
I don’t expect my buds and I will come anywhere near breaking those impressive records, but we are going to give it our best effort. And after we have fun learning how to pole vault, we’ll head home and watch the world’s best athletes compete in the 2016 games from Rio.
Who knows...if I'm pretty good at this sport, I may make the next Olympic summer games...the first frog athlete ever to compete!