London Olympics Preview: The Pole Vault

I love watching the pole vault. It is the most technically demanding athletics event – and one of the most engaging and exciting. I won’t pretend to be a pole vaulting expert. I am not. My knowledge of its technical intricacies are practically nil, so I’ll be basing my predictions on gut feel and statistics.

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s Pole Vault

Yelena Isinbayeva (Елена Исинбаева) is to women’s pole vault as Sergei Bubka (Сергі́й Бу́бка Серге́й Бу́бка) is to the men’s event. Isinbayeva is undoubtedly, the greatest female vaulter of all-time, the only one to clear above five meters in the relatively young discipline. But the stresses of being on top for so long took its toll on the Russian. Isinbayeva no-heighted at the 2009 Berlin World Championships and placed a dismal fourth a year later at the World Indoors in Doha.

Isinbayeva at the Doha World Indoors. (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

After taking a year-long break, the pole vaulting legend is back, having cleared a world-leading 5.02m last February, before storming back to the top at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.

The world record holder, at her best, is unbeatable. She is simply way ahead of her other competitors, despite showing signs of vulnerability the past few years. Isinbayeva is my hands down choice for the Olympic title. It is safe to say that no one can beat Yelena but herself.

The 2011 World Champion, Fabiana Murer (4.63m SB), leads the short list of challengers. Jennifer Suhr, the silver medalist from Beijing behind Isinbayeva, seemed to have regained her old form with season’s best clearances of 4.65m outdoors and 4.88m indoors. Isinbayeva’s long-time rival and compatriot, Svetlana Feofanova (Светлана Феофанова), and the 2009 World Champion, Anna Rogowska, are also be in the running for a spot on the podium.


Murer (L), Suhr (C), and Rogowska (R). (Photos from Wilson Dias/ABr, All-Athletics, and Erik van Leeuwen)

Britain’s Holly Bleasdale has had a sterling indoor campaign, notching a new British record of 4.87m indoors. Only Isinbayeva and Suhr had jumped higher than Bleasdale indoors. The 21-year old has yet to find her form outdoors this season (4.35m), but has a 4.70m personal best from 2011.

Rounding up the list of contenders are Yarisley Silva (4.72m SB indoors), Jirina Ptácniková (4.70m SB indoors), and Silke Spiegelburg (4.77m SB indoors).

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Yelena Isinbayeva

Silver: Fabiana Murer

Bronze:  Jennifer Suhr/Anna Rogowska

Men’s Pole Vault

The demise of Steven Hooker – who once held Olympic, World Championships, World Indoor Championships, and Commonwealth Games titles – has paved the way for an excitingly, unpredicatable competition. Case in point is the Daegu World Championships, where the relatively unknown Paweł Wojciechowski (5.90m) and Lázaro Borges (5.90m) topped the competition, ahead of the favorite, Renaud Lavillenie (5.85m).

Otto (L), Lavillenie (C), and Walker (R) at the Istanbul World Indoors. (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

Among the top ten vaulters in the 2012 outdoor season, only Lavillenie (6.01m PB – 2009, outdoors, 6.03m PB – 2011, outdoors) and Brad Walker (6.04m PB – 2008, outdoors) are members of the elite six-meter club. The rest hover around the 5.90m height. The silver medalist from Beijing, Yevgeny Lukyanenko (Евгений Лукьяненко), is ranked below the top 10 (5.65m SB), but had cleared 6.01m back in 2008.


Lukyanenko (L) and Mesnil (R). (Photos from All-Athletics and Albin Denooz)

The other vaulters who have won major championship medals are Björn Otto (2nd, Istanbul 2012, 5.90m PB – 2007), Malte Mohr (2nd, Doha 2010, 5.72m PB – 2012), Romain Mesnil (2nd, Osaka 2007/Berlin 2009; 3rd – Lisbon 2001; 5.95m PB – 2003), and Denys Yurchenko Денис Юрченко (3rd, Budapest 2004; 3rd, Beijing 2008; 5.83m PB – 2008).


Mohr (L) and Yurchenko (R). (Photos from and

As the world leader, Lavillenie has the favorite tag. The resurgent elder statesmen, Walker and Otto, are surprisingly perched at the higher spots – above their younger competitors. Mohr and the Briton Steven Lewis look poised to make an impact in the world’s highest stage.

The men’s event is certainly a lot tougher to call! But here goes nothing. Who knows? Maybe Stevie Hooker has a few surprises left under his sleeve?

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Renaud Lavillenie

Silver: Brad Walker/Malte Mohr

Bronze:  Romain Mesnil/Björn Otto


2008 Beijing Olympics Results

2011 World Championships Results

2009 World Championships Results

2007 World Championships Results

2012 World Indoor Championships Results

2010 World Indoor Championships Results

IAAF Top List – 2012 Men’s Pole Vault

IAAF Top List – 2012 Women’s Pole Vault

3 responses to “London Olympics Preview: The Pole Vault

  1. Vriki-Yiaco-Coe (@slvr1969) June 12, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    – the best there is, was and ever will be!!
    – Yelena Isinbaeva – Russian Pole Vaulter –
    – 15 000+ photos & 250+ videos –

  2. Pingback: Links to Olympic Event Reviews and my predictions « Pinoy Athletics

  3. Pingback: Portrait Silke Spiegelburg « Hurdler49: Hurdling the Real World

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