Considering the women's pole vault in Glasgow, a conversation with Katerina Stefanidi, by Stuart Weir


Ekaterina Stefanidi.jpgEkaterina Stefanidi, photo by Getty Images/British Athletics

Stuart Weir wrote this piece on the pole vault at Glasgow, but, really, it is about the pole vault championship coming up and the amazing growth of the women's pole vault. A nicely done piece for our English friend.

The women's polevault

Isn't it wonderful how our sport loves to jump up and bite us on the butt when we least expect it. This is an account of the women's pole-vault in Glasgow. Katerina Stefanidi was in the field. But what has Stefanidi ever won*- apart from the Olympics, the World Championship and every pole vault competition in the last year?

Anyway, with Stefanidi competing and no one called Morris or Nageotte in the hall, it was an open and shut case. Well, I'm afraid that fellow Greek, Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou, had not read the script. When Stefanidi entered the competition at 4.65 and failed to clear the bar, which Kiriakopoulou had already cleared, Stefanidi found herself under a little pressure. Stefanidi got it on the second attempt but there was the matter of count-back to consider. When both girls failed twice at 4.75, the pressure was back on the champion. Kiriakopoulou failed a third time leaving Stefanidi needing to clear 4.75. She did what champions do, clearing 4.75 - but failing at 4.84 - to secure the victory.

She told me her feelings on the competition: "I came here with a bit of a cold so we were a little worried about the competition. But in warm-up, I had the best warm-up of my whole indoor season. Then the competition started and it did not go the way I wanted it to. Today I was using bigger poles - [she had 10 to choose from] - that I had not used since the summer so I think it is a good preparation for the championship. I was not very confident to finish the jumps the right way but I think it was good that I got to try them today and be ready for them on Saturday".

Many vaulters prefer indoor to outdoor- because you don't have to worry about wind, rain or temperature - but Stefanidi explained to me why she prefers outdoor competition: "I like competing indoors when we are running on ground. I have a little bit of trouble when it is race runways. On good runways it is OK but if they are not set up well, they can be too bouncy and they ruin my rhythm. I think outdoor competition gives me an edge because I am a very consistent vaulter. So whatever the conditions I will jump about the same. I think conditions affect other athletes more. So the reason I prefer outdoor is that I think it gives me an edge. I used to love indoors but it has been a little hard lately so I think I like outdoor more".

While Sandi Morris always competitive - except when she is distracted by her snakes, less so these days with only 3 instead of 28 in her apartment - and Katie Nageotte jumping PRs for fun, I wondered how Katerina saw the state of women's vaulting at the moment. She was clear in her analysis of what was needed to win: "I always say, going into a championship, if you can jump 4.85 you will get a medal. If you can do it on the first attempt, you will get gold. I think it is the same here. Those girls [Nageotte and Morris] have done really well but they have done it on race runways and I think there is a big difference between a race runway and the ground. It will be interesting to see how they adjust to the ground, having mainly jumped off race runways. My last two meets off the ground have not been the best but at least I have got used to it. Birmingham is a very special place and it is a championship. The change of name [from meet to championship] makes a very big difference".

Birmingham next Saturday could be fascinating. I am glad that I will be there.

*With acknowledgement to Monty Python's "What have the Romans ever done for us!"

Read Stuart on Sandi Morris and snakes at

And Stuart on Katie Nageotte's trials in getting her poles across the world

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