Friday, April 29, 2016

History Class

Learning to pole vault is always a resilient process as there are many factors going into a simple three step vault. One thing that is the same throughout all beginner vaults however, is that they all utilize what is called a straight pole technique. All this means is that the athlete does not bend the pole and in return has to move their arms differently compared to bending the pole. I personally remember my first couple weeks of  pole vaulting as straight pole vaulting is a very rugged, vigorous movement. Every time I planted the pole it would wrench on my shoulder and whisk my feet from beneath me. As soon as I began to bend the pole however, I gained a great appreciation for vaulting. Every time I bolt down the runway, I am aware that I will be fling shot high into the air without having my arms ripped off as the pole melts into a perfect bend upon touching the ground. Bending the pole gives a springing motion at the top of the vault and hurls the athlete over the bar. The current technique, that is formed around the bend and snap of the pole, is not the technique used when pole vaulting was invented. 

When the sport of pole vault was invented, the pole were dramatically different from those used in competition today. The poles where simple bamboo sticks that were planted into a sand pit. Bamboo is not very flexible and therefor would cause the athlete to use a straight pole technique that also varied from those used today. An athlete would stick the pole in the ground and immediately begin to work his or her hands up the pole as if they were climbing a rope in gym class. When near the peak of the vault, they would kick their legs up in hopes to clear the bar. 

After years of pole vaulting with stiff bamboo sticks, the world record became harder and harder to break as the technique and pole type had not changed. This was the case just before World War II which would soon change due to the war itself. America normally obtained its bamboo poles from Japan who soon became enemies with America after the egregious attack on pearl harbor. This caused the American pole vaulters to use steal poles which were very stiff and rugged to use. The war itself did not help the sport at all as it create a paucity of top pole vaulters as most were drafted and killed in the war creating no competition to the lucky men who were not drafted. 

After the World War II had ended, the world record had remained the same for countless years. It was time for a change. Fiber glass poles made their way into the circulation of the sport and changed both the level (pun intended) of competition, and the form forever. The bend of the pole allowed athletes to transfer their energy created by running more effectively and efficiently than ever before. If you were to try pole vaulting, there would be weeks of hard straight polling but soon enough you would have the joy of handling the bend. Doesn't it sound tempting to rid the bend and see what happens?

1 comment:

  1. After watching pole vaulting various times, I cannot believe they used bamboo sticks in the past! It is incredible to me that some of today's technique came from such a natural resource. It sounds like pole vaulting gives you a feeling of freedom, especially after you mastered the bending technique. I think it is awesome to have something in your life like that. I have to admit, I would be petrified to try pole vaulting. However, it does seem mind-blowing once you are confident with your technique.