This is part two of Stuart Weir’s feature on Olympic and WC gold medalist Katie Nageotte. Katie spoke honestly with Stuart on her challenging season and just how much it has meant. This is the 204th story of 205 pieces by Stuart in 2022, and we thank him for his incredible writing for RunBlogRun.
Katie Nageotte Part 2
Olympic Champion pole-vaulter had quite a journey to reach the 2022 World Championships (see the previous article) but it all came good when she arrived. And to make it even better, it was a home championship.
“It was awesome. I think it was exactly what I needed from where I had been all year. The fact that my family, fiancé, and friends were all there helped. Also, I felt more laid back, which was what I needed. It still felt very important, but the fact that I could go out to dinner with my family and see them calmed me. I am somebody who likes to hang out with my people. It helped me to get the balance between it being a really big event and helping me to stay relaxed”.
Despite the disappointing crowds, “it still felt awesome. When I was on the runway, I could hear people – and not just my family members – cheering for me. People I didn’t know who were genuinely rooting for me in a way that I’d never gotten at a Diamond League or championship”.
With regard to the disappointing attendance, Katie puts it down to the cost of travel across the USA and the fact that track and field in America isn’t quite what it is in Europe in terms of popularity.
One vault was all that Katie needed to reach the final. In the final, she cleared 4.45 and 4.60 at the first attempt and 4.70 and 4.80 each at the second attempt. Katie, Nina Kennedy, and Sandi Morris were the only three to clear 4.80, so they were the medallists, but Sandi Morris was the only one with a perfect record. It all came down to the 4.85 bar, and Katie cleared it with her first attempt, Morris needed two goes, and Kennedy failed. The Olympic champion had become the World champion.
“Everything we have done in the past 4-5 years with my coach, Brad, gave me the foundation that I needed. I know that I won’t ever get away with it again because I wouldn’t be so lucky next time. I knew that part of that meet would be competing for my way into shape and confidence because I felt better once I found a rhythm. I think it also helped that I love the Oregon runway, and I’m very comfortable with that runway. I have always competed well there, and I guess there were no surprises. I was just trying to make every jump as good as I possibly could. That might sound a bit strange – like, why did I not do that earlier in the year? I had to force it emotionally to get my body to do what I wanted, and I think it required a different level of adrenaline to let that come through.
“I wasn’t really expecting 4.85 from the short run-up. I knew I could medal, and I thought perhaps something really cool could happen. You have to make every jump count and not let your emotions get the better of you and do the best you can”.
What is it they say? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When the world title was at stake, Katie showed the mark of a champion by producing the big jump. She continues: “At that point in the competition, there were not many of us left, so it was rapid fire. I cleared 4.80, and that was a big jump, which felt really good, and then I was up again. So there was no time for anything to get in my head. It was just ‘do that again’. Because sometimes, especially when I felt like I did all year when I had to sit for a bit and then go back on the runway, I felt like I was starting from square one – even in the middle of a meet. But this time, because I was right back on the runway again within a couple of minutes. It was ‘remember what that felt like and do it again’. Fortunately, my body listened! I would say that the 4.85 jump was not my best because technically if you watch, I sort of fell off the pole, but I still gave it a really good attempt even as I was falling off. I still tried to hold the position as best I could. I hit the bar, but on the day, it stayed”.
And then they put a gold medal around her neck!