Sandi Morris, Rome DL, June 9, 2022, photo by Diamond League AG
Katie Nageotte, photo by Martin Bateman
The women’s pole vault has been one of Stuart Weir’s favorite events during the time that he has written for RunBlogRun. Stuart wrote this piece about the Rome Diamond League and how he fell in love with the pole vault.
Pole Vault Women
Regular readers will know that the women’s pole vault is one of my favorite disciplines. It is exciting, demanding a high level of athleticism, skill, and courage from the participants. The bond between the top athletes is close. I’ve previously written about the Tokyo Olympic final, where Holly Bradshaw and Katie Nageotte were doing their utmost to beat each other to the gold medal but still found it entirely appropriate to sit down and have a chat while waiting for the competition. I’m intrigued by the technical aspects, and this piece brings that out.
Men’s pole vault is also brilliant but is in a phase where everyone jumps and Mondo wins. Choosing the winner in the women’s event is much more difficult. What I also like about the women’s pole vault is that the protagonists are all lovely people who will talk all day to you about pole vault and never seem to mind answering my dumb questions and explaining to me the technicalities.
At this point, I need to name the two main culprits who are responsible for my near-obsession with women’s pole vault. About five years ago, while transiting in Abu Dhabi on the way to Doha, I met Katie Nageotte. We chatted at the luggage carousel – me awaiting my suitcase. Katie is anxious if her poles had made it in one piece. To that point, I’d never thought of the challenges pole vaulters face in getting their equipment across the world. Since then, I’ve had many conversations with Katie. My other go-to person is Sally Simpson, a Commonwealth Games medalist now married to an elite coach. Scott Simpson. I used to be a normal person before those two ladies let me down the path of pole vault obsession!
Sandi Morris, photo by Martin Bateman
In Rome, Sandi Morris won the competition as she had done at Birmingham. This time with a world-leading 4.81m. Behind her, four athletes cleared 4.60m – Holly Bradshaw, Roberta Bruni, Katie Nageotte, and Tina Sutej. The 2016 Olympic Champion, Katerina Stefanidi, was sixth with 4.50m – how I would love to see her back to her best.
Sandi Morris commented afterward: “I am ecstatic today. This is the highest I have jumped since last season. I am working with a new coach [Brad Walker, who also coaches Katie], it is a very different situation, and I think this is some of the best technical vaultings I have done so far under my new training situation – so I have very, very happy. I came out here with a mindset ‘I want to jump 4.90’. I did not quite do that, but I think it is right around the corner. Competing in the United States this summer, it is going to be a unique opportunity and one I am not going to waste. I have fire in my heart.
“I have been super consistent, and this is really making me feel confident, and I feel I am right around the corner from some bigger heights. I don´t think I have ever been more motivated in my life, you know. As an athlete, every year that goes by, you get a little bit older, and I think the last two years have been a wake-up call for me. You never know when it might be your last season, whether you want it or not, and I am not going to waste a single opportunity. Having the World Championships back home is going to be amazing, and I can´t wait to compete in the main stadium – it is beautiful, and I know it is going to be a unique opportunity. I can´t wait for it to come”.
Let the record show that I have written an article about Sandi Morris without mentioning snakes or monitor lizards. Oh No! I just have.
Holly Bradshaw, photo by Martin Bateman
Holly Bradshaw is a thoughtful and engaging athlete. Having “no-heightened” in Birmingham and cleared 4.55m in Rabat, she did 4.60m in Rome. She told me:
“I am so happy and stoked. From the outside, 4.60m doesn’t sound great, but for me, this was just the competition I needed. Over the last couple of months, I have completely lost my jump from 14 steps because I missed the whole winter training through injury. Birmingham was just the second competition with 14 steps, so it’s unfortunate that I have been thrust into the competitive environment to try to figure things out. But I have been, and it has not been going well. So today was a real landmark turn for me. I vaulted well and had my Holly feelings on the pole back.
“I honestly cannot take a single negative from today. I was very close to 4.70,m and I just need to springboard on from this.
“I am very much an elastic jumper, so if technically a few things are off, it is awful. I have already looked at my jumps today versus Rabat, and the technique is completely different. In Rabat, I was choking the pole, and it wasn’t rolling. People may not be able to get that through their heads if they are not pole-vaulting savvy. But the difference is like chalk and cheese.
“I knew this day would come but didn’t know if it would be today or next week, at the British champs or the worlds. I knew I would be ready for worlds to deliver a 4.80m performance. It sucks when you are a pole-vaulter and you can’t pole-vault well – it really does. It drains the energy out of you, so I have been very deflated the last couple of weeks, but today was a massive turn for me”.
The Women’s pole vault will be one of the highlights of the Oregon World Champs.