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a track and field event in which an athlete uses a pole to propel his/her body over a crossbar set at a certain height
Pole vaulting originated in Europe, where men used a pole to cross canals filled with water. In this early form, the goal was distance rather than height. Colleges began competing in the pole vault in the late-1800's. Originally the vaulters competed on grass and used bamboo poles with a sharp point at the bottom. After getting a running start, the vaulter would plant the point in the grass, vault over a crossbar, and, if all went well, land on the other side. As heights increased because of improvements in technique and materials, landing mats were introduced.
How to Pole Vault
The fundamentals of pole-vaulting are (1) grip, (2) run, (3) plant and take-off, (4) swing, (5) pull-up, and (7) clearing the bar.
The Grip is very important, as the athlete must position his hands properly and place them at the ideal height on the pole in order to achieve maximum power. The non-dominant hand is usually placed 2 to 3 feet below the dominant hand, and the pole must be held within 2 degrees of parallel to the ground.
The Run down the runway is made almost at top speed, but the vaulter must control his speed carefully. Markers along the runway allow him to gauge his stride and take-off position so that he takes off from the same foot and at the same place in every vault.
The Plant and Take-Off occur when the vaulter places (plants) the end of the pole in the take-off box at the end of the runway and slides his lower hand closer to his upper hand. As the speed obtained down the runway is transformed into upward motion, the pole bends. As it straightens, it helps the vaulter thrust himself upward.
The Swing and Pull-Up As the vaulter holds onto the rising pole and swings his body through the air, he pulls his knees up toward his chest and then shoots his feet up toward the bar. The swing and pull-up produce a hand-stand effect with the vaulter's chest next to the crossbar.
Clearing the Bar While the vaulter is in the hand-stand position, his feet start down on the other side of the crossbar. This position of the body is essential for maximum height. The vaulter then pushes the pole away from him so it will not hit the crossbar. As he releases the pole, he will also turn his thumbs inward to help keep his elbows from hitting the crossbar.
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This page was last updated on August 19, 2018.