Friday, February 12, 2016

The Perfect Vaulter

The first time I consulted with the track coaches about possibly pole vaulting, they told me it would be a difficult challenge. The coaches immediately stated that most elite vaulters are taller than 6' 3", extremely quick, and strong but lean at the same time. The only "category" they mentioned that I qualified for, was speed. I approached the vault not nearly as fast as the elite vaulters, but would not be classified as slow. When it came to height and body shape, I presented to be the complete opposite of what I "should" be in order compete at a higher level (pun intended). I stood a staggering 5' 3" during my freshman track season and had body similar to a built wrestler. Despite not having the best natural stature on my side, I was able to jump 10' freshman year using a pole called 'The Lady Rocket.' 


My coaches had originally told me it would be difficult to excel in pole vault as I did not fit the memo of most elite vaulters, but upon further review, I was more qualified than originally judged to be. The current male pole vault world record holder is Renaud Lavillenie from France. He set the bar at a crazy height of 6.16m or 20' 2 1/2". Contrary to most elite vaulters, Renaud is only 5' 9" and still manages to hold the world record. This proves that an athlete does not have to be towering tall to excel in pole vault. 

Being shorter means having smaller takeoff angles and therefore the need for speed. When a vaulter first leaves the ground in any vault, their right arm should be fully extended above their head while being directly vertical  from their left takeoff foot. Because Renaud is shorter, in order for him to hold at a height parallel to those of other vaulters, he has to be farther out from the box. This is due to having a smaller angle between the pole and the ground when taking off. A smaller take off angle also means that he has to travel a farther distance horizontally to get over the bar than taller vaulters.

In order to overcome this disadvantage, he levels the playing field with his speed. The more speed a vaulter has when taking off, the more energy transferred into the pole. Even though he may be short, the current pole vault world record holder has lighting fast speed allowing him to transfer more energy into the pole. 

Now knowing more about the natural characteristics of an elite pole vaulter, would you make to be a greater vaulter? or are you vertically challenged and need speed like me?

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