Toby Stevenson speaks to Flotrack

Toby Stevenson is unique because of his ever-present helmet. In some places in the United States, a helmets are required equipment for the pole vault for safety reasons. Stevenson, in fact, is the only top tier vaulter who wore a helmet in competition. Naturally, this made him standout.

Stevenson’s best year came in 2004, where he joined the elite 6.00 meter club. At the Olympic Games in Athens, Stevenson came in 2nd (5.90m) behind the ageless Tim Mack for an American 1-2 finish. The Texas-born athlete never did replicate the successes of his 2004 season. Stevenson missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A year later at the Berlin World Championships, the American finished 12th in qualifying (5.40m).

The U.S. athletics website, Flotrack, offers an in-depth glimpse into track & field. In the interview below, the now retired Stevenson talks about life as an elite athlete and life after it. The way he describes living 50m from the track and free services like physio made me drool with envy! You don’t get that by reading IAAF articles or watching Youtube clips. The Flotrack interviews have an intimate, friendly feel.

What struck me the most was how passionately Stevenson told of the sacrifices he had to made. Career, family and friends took a backseat in the years he spent among the pole vault elite. He lived a life that epitomizes living, eating and breathing everything athletics. His parting words are poignant:

I’ve been feeling quite down the past few days. Despite the steady progress I’ve achieved in training, the balancing act is becoming increasingly harder to bear. Sometimes, really, I’m tempted to just quit the sport and live out a normal life. But compared to the struggles faced by great athletes like Stevenson, my life’s hurdles seem grossly minute. I draw inspiration from the lives of others, and channel it into my own.

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