Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz had a long and distinguished pole-vaulting career, spanning nearly twenty years and including two world records and an Olympic gold medal. Kozakiewicz’s first major international competition was the 1974 European Championships in Rome, where he won the silver medal with a clearance of 5.35m, the same height as the winner.
The next year he set his first European record of 5.60m, and he further improved this record to 5.62m in May 1976. This made Kozakiewicz one of the favourites for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, but he injured his left ankle in his first vault in the final and finished in only 11th place.
In 1978 he came fourth at his second European Championships in Prague, but his best year was definitely 1980. On 11 May 1980, Kozakiewicz set a new world record of 5.72m at Milan, only two months before the Moscow Olympic Games. At Moscow, Kozakiewicz was invincible, clearing every height at his first attempt until victory was assured, despite the unsportsmanlike jeering from the partisan Soviet crowd who were supporting the Soviet vaulter Konstantin Volkov.
No other vaulter could make the 5.70m height which Kozakiewicz cleared on his first attempt, before clearing a new world record of 5.78m on his second attempt at that height. Kozakiewicz was never as dominant internationally as he was in that season. One of his last representative appearances for Poland was at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, where he finished equal eighth.
Due to political unrest in Poland, he defected to West Germany in 1984, where he won the West German national title in both 1986 and 1987. His last appearance in the top 100 rankings for the season was in 1989, at 36 years of age.
by: Ron Casey