This is Stuart Weir’s piece on the women’s pole vault. Stuart was, well conflicted. He knows Katie Nageotte, Holly Bradshaw, Sandi Morris, and Katerina Stefanidi from the tour. Being able to watch Katie and Holly medal in the pole vaut, was a singular experience of enjoyment.
Katie Nageotte – a worthy winner
The Tokyo 2020 Women’s Pole Vault was an intriguing event. It was odd in some ways, disappointing in some ways, but it reached a fantastic climax. I was pleased that the programme was quite light tonight so that the pole vault was often centre stage, not just an event happening in a corner of the arena.
15 ladies started off. Two failed to clear the opening height of 4.50m. There was nearly a third when Katie Nageotte needed three attempts to clear the opening height. But more on Ms Nageotte later. From 4.50m, the next height was 4.70m. Nine athletes failed at 4.70m leaving only four still standing.
Anzhelika Sidorova (Russia) had had two vaults, two clearances.
Holly Bradshaw (GB) one failure on the way to two clearances.
Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) with two failures at each of the opening heights.
Katie Nagotte (USA) three failures at the opening two heights.
Sidorova and Nageotte, who suddenly looked confident rather than nervy, progressed through 4.80m and 4.85m in two vaults. Holly joined them with one failure. Stefanidi was struggling, clearing 4.80m at the second attempt, failing and then passing at 4.85m.
This is where the tactics of vaulting or passing became fascinating. Bradshaw had three attempts at 4.90m but failed. Nageotte succeeded at 4.90m at the second attempt to put herself in the box seat. Sidorova, perfect to this point failed twice at 4.90, passed and failed at 4.95. Stefanidi had two attempts at 4.90 but failed, settling for fourth place.
Katie Nageotte was a worthy winner, being the only athlete to clear 4.90m. Sidorova took silver with fewer failures than Holly Bradshaw the bronze medallist.
The winner summed up her feelings: “It hasn’t even begun to sink in yet. This is the biggest dream I have ever had for myself. And here I am living the dream. It was the worst warm-up I have had in a long time and I did an ugly first few jumps. It took me a few heights to get into it, but I was just fighting and I finally found a smooth jump. It came together. This is about as good as I could feel. We’ve all been through so much with Covid and everything, I’m really grateful.”
Bradshaw commented: “It shows my resilience and will to keep going. Pole vault is a funny event – you can be in the best shape of your life and still come seventh. It’s really hard to win a medal and the fact that I’ve just been so close for so many years, I knew at one point I’d hopefully get on the podium. It just feels so special for it to be here. I’m really happy.” In another quote I saw, she said of coach, Scott Simpson, “I couldn’t wish for a better coach, mentor, friend.”
I am privileged to have known Katie and Holly for a few years and what lovely people they are. It was a pleasure to be in the stadium to watch them fulfil their ambitions tonight. Holly’s comment about the margins being so small is very true. Katie was one failure from finishing last and she ended up winning.
I know no athlete more deserving of a championship medal than Holly. For two weeks prior to her departure for Tokyo, she gradually adjusted the time she went to bed – by half an hour a day – and the times she ate her meals so that she was already living in Tokyo time before she arrived. That is dedication and tonight dedication was rewarded.