A popular track and field event, pole vaulting demands speed and agility. The process of running and using a pole to vault over a barrier has a defined history from ancient times to modern day. A contemporary Olympic event from 1896, it has seen a revolution in terms of the technology and techniques used.
The occurrence of vaulting equipment began life in a world far from competitive sport. There is evidence of practice by early Greeks and Egyptians, where warriors are portrayed as vaulting over walls. The tactical advantage of vaulting walls quickly has obvious advantages in strategic situations, with war being one of them.
In marshy areas poles were a practical means of helping people skip natural obstacles in Holland and many counties within the united kingdom. It certainly had cost and time saving benefits in comparison to bridges for example.
The first known competition flips the concept of pole vaulting as we see it now. It was based on space covered rather than height. It wasn’t until 1850 that the first elevation based pole vault competition begun.
Bamboo was still used in Olympic sticks to the Second World War. From the 1950’s poles were starting to be manufactured using fiberglass. This material led to the production of flexible poles allowing vaulters to attain greater heights. Poles were lighter, stronger, more flexible and allowed greater speed on the approach. In the last couple of years carbon fibre has been added to the mixture to make poles with a lighter weight. As a result of this technology the Olympic gold winning height nearly doubled in less than a century. In 1896 the winning height was 3.30 metres compared to the world record of 6.14 metres set in 1994. The 6 metre barrier is a prestigious barrier to overcome for any pole vaulter.
Advances weren’t only made in the construction of the rod but also landing areas. As advances in pole technology led to greater heights being reached, the landing areas began to use foam mats to decrease the risk of injury.
Pole vaulting was only introduced as an Olympic event for girls in the millennium year.