Pole vaulting is a track and field event in which the vaulter uses a long, flexible fiberglass or carbon fiber pole as an aid to leap over a bar.
Pole vaulting is one of the most technically demanding athletic events. It combines the skills of gymnastics, weight lifting, sprinting, and jumping. The best pole vaulters are fast, powerful, strong, agile, tenacious, and courageous.
Pole vaulting competitions were held by ancient Greeks, Cretans and Celts. Men's Pole Vaulting has been a medal event at the Olympic Games since 1896. Women's Olympic pole vaulting began in 2000.
Poles were used as a means of passing over natural obstacles, waterways, and marshy places throughout Europe. Stacks of jumping poles were kept at homes to enable people to cross canals and waterways without getting wet. Venetian gondoliers have historically used their punting poles to vault themselves to shore from their boats.
History recorded an early pole vaulting competition at the Ulverston Football and Cricket Club, Cumbria in 1843. Modern competition began around 1850 in Germany. Modern pole vaulting technique was developed in the United States in the latter 1800s.
The first competitive vaulting poles were made from solid ash. As the heights attained increased bamboo poles gave way to tubular aluminum, which was tapered at each end. More recent improvements brought flexible vaulting poles made from composites such as fiberglass or carbon fiber. These poles allow vaulters to achieve greater height.
A good pole vaulter must demonstrate not only speed, agility and strength but great technical skill.
Today, male and female athletes compete in the pole vault as one of the four jumping events in track and field. Each vaulter uses his or her own weight to launch over an elevated bar. If the vaulter knocks the bar off its support he or she is disqualified. Only vaulters who have cleared the bar are judged.
The effective properties of a pole can be changed by gripping the pole higher or lower in relation to the top of the pole. The left and right hand grips are typically a bit more than shoulder width apart. Poles are manufactured for people of all skill levels and body sizes, with sizes as short as 3.05m (10 feet) to as long as 5.30 m (17 feet 4.5 inches), with a wide range of weight ratings.