Centuries ago, pole vaulting originated in the Netherlands as a means to cross canals and marshy areas without getting one’s wooden shoes all mucked up with mud. To this day, distance pole vaulting competitions, or fierljeppen, are held in the lowland areas next to the North Sea.
One of world’s most skilled at “far leaping” is 28-year-old Jaco de Groot. The Dutch dairy farmer set a junior record with a distance of 66.96 feet (20.41 m) in August, 2006.
POLE VAULT WORLD RECORDS
Height, rather than distance, was the measure of prowess when pole vaulting was included in the 1896 revival of the Olympic Games. William Hoyt of the United States won the event’s inaugural gold medal after clearing a height of 10.83 feet (3.30 m).
The technology behind the pole used in vaulting has steadily improved over the years. Poles made of solid wood from the ash tree eventually gave way to tubular aluminum, then fiberglass-wrapped metal. As a result, heights have continued to go up.
The earliest world record was established in 1912 at 13.19 feet (4.02 m). In February of last year, France’s Renaud Lavillenie set a new indoor world record at 20 feet 2½ inches (6.16 m).
POLE VAULT WORLD WRECKERS
The triumph of pole-vaulting technology also has its travails. To put a slight twist on an old adage; the higher they vault, the harder they fall. And fall they do — in every conceivable fashion.
In all fairness, even an old fashioned wooden pole can’t be trusted if the vaulter fails to use it properly.