Pole Vault

Pole vaulter by Hunter Peress, uploaded by Kpjas.
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Pole vaulter by Hunter Peress, uploaded by Kpjas.

The pole vault athlete uses a long (from 10ft to over 17ft), flexible pole (nowadays usually made of fibre-glass or carbon fibre) to leap over a bar. The athlete chooses the height they want to start with. Once started they have three attempts to clear the height. Once a height is cleared, the vaulter advances to the next height, where they will have a further three attempts. Three consecutive misses at any height and they are out. They can choose to pass heights. If a vaulter misses on their first (or second) attempt at a height, they may choose to pass to the next height, but they will only have two attempts (or one if they missed two on the previous height) at that height, as they will be out after three consecutive misses.

The horizontal position of the bar may be changed before each jump and can be place at a distance beyond the back of the box.

It is a foul if the pole dislodges the bar from the uprights, even if the athlete clears the bar. However, if vaulting outdoors and a clear effort was made to throw the pole back, but the pole is blown into the bar, this counts as a clearance. A pole breaking during a vault is an equipment failure, and is ruled a non-jump, and the athlete gets a 'do-over'. Other equipment failures include the standards slipping down or the wind dislodging the bar when no contact was made by the vaulter.

Once called, the pole vaulter has a set amount of time in which to make an attempt. If the vaulter fails to begin an attempt within this time, a time foul is called and the attempt is a miss.

Poles are manufactured with ratings corresponding to the pole vaulter's maximum weight. The recommended weight is determined by placing a standardised amount of stress (usually a 50 lb weight) on the pole and measuring how much the centre of the pole droops. Two poles rated at the same weight are not necessarily the same stiffness. The behaviour of the pole may be altered by gripping the pole higher or lower. The handgrips are usually slightly more than shoulder width apart. Poles are available for people of all skill levels and body sizes, with sizes as short as 3.05m (10 feet) to as long as 5.30 m (17 feet 4.5 inches), with a wide range of weight ratings.

Today's high-tech landing mats are foam, usually 1 to 1.5 meters (3 ft 3 in–4 ft 10 in) thick. Mats are growing larger in area to minimize risk of injury. The best way to land is on the back or shoulders. Landing upright should be avoided, to reduce the risk of injury to the legs and ankles.


The generally accepted technique can be broken down into several phases:


The pole vaulter sprints down the runway. At the beginning the pole is usually carried upright to some degree, and is gradually lowered as the take-off point is approached. This minimizes levered weight of the pole. The idea is to achieve maximum speed just at the point of take-off.

Plant and take-off

This typically starts three steps out from the final step. The athlete is aiming to gain as much initial vertical height as possible when jumping off the ground. For a right-handed athlete, the plant starts by raising his arms up from around the hips or mid-torso until they are fully outstretched above his head. The right arm extends directly above the head and the left arm extends at right angles to the pole. The pole tip is dropped into the box. The vaulter jumps off the trailing leg which should always remain straight and then drives the front knee forward. As the pole is slid into the back of the box it begins to bend and the vaulter continues up and forward, leaving the trailing leg angled down and behind him.

Swing up

Here the pole vaulter swings his trailing leg forward and rows the pole, bringing his top arm down to the hips, while trying to keep the trailing leg straight. The rowing motion keeps the pole bent longer giving the athlete more time to get into optimum position. Once the pole is in a in a "U" shape the left arm hugs the pole tight to efficiently use the recoil. The swing continues until the hips are above the head and the arms are pulling the pole close to the chest. The vaulter then shoots his legs up over the cross bar while keeping the pole close.


This is the extension of the hips upward with outstretched legs as the shoulders drive down, putting the athlete upside down. While this phase is executed, the pole recoil and propels the athlete quickly upward. The hands of the athlete remain close to the body as they move from the shins back to the region around the hips and upper torso.


The turn is executed immediately after or even during the end of the rockback (when the vaulters shoulders drop or "rockback" under the vaulters extended body). The vaulter turns 180° toward the pole while extending the arms down past the head and shoulders.


The athlete pushes the pole away from the bar and mats. When going over the bar he should be facing it. Rotation over the bar occurs naturally, and the athlete must make sure that no part of his body or clothes knock the bar off. The vaulter should land on their back near the middle of the foam landing mats.

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This page derived from wikipedia page Pole vault.

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