The first ever Commonwealth vault in Hamilton in 1930 was a poor-standard event as Vic Pickard’s 3.73m was suffcient for gold. Howard Ford of England matched that mark for a silver.
Canada retained the title in London in 1934, with Sylvanus Apps defeating his compatriot Alf Gilbert in a jump-off, achieving 3.88m, having cleared 3.81m initially.
In Sydney in 1938, there was an advance in standards as South African Andries du Plessis took the Games record over four metres with 4.11m.
In Auckland in 1950, standards dropped again as England’s Tim Anderson found 3.96m good enough to win, albeit a height matched by the silver medallist.
The event was much better class in Vancouver in 1954, where the top three bettered the Games record and decathlete Geoff Elliott equalled his Empire record of 4.27m.
Elliott retained his title in Cardiff in 1958, though he wasn’t in the same form as all the medallists cleared 4.16m. In Perth in 1962, there was a big advance in standards as the fibre-glass poles began to take effect. The first six beat Elliott’s Games record. The winner was Australian teenager Trevor Bickle with 4.50m.
Bickle won again in Kingston in 1966 as he took the record all the way up to 4.80m, though Northern Ireland’s Mike Bull (pictured) pushed him close with 4.72m.
The Northern Ireland athlete was in even better form in Edinburgh in 1970 and he took the Games mark up to a British record 5.10m.
In Christchurch in 1974, Bull won his third successive medal but was narrowly beaten by Australian Don Baird clearing the same height as he had when winning decathlon gold.
Brian Hooper, who had go on to become better known for his appearances on TV’s Superstars, won the first British vault bronze. Hooper won another bronze in Edmonton in 1978 as Bruce Simpson of Canada took gold; both he and Baird cleared 5.10m. Bull no-heighted as did current top masters vaulter Allan Williams.
Three athletes cleared 5.20m in Brisbane in 1982 with Ray Boyd winning gold for the home nation, but Jeff Gutteridge and more surprisingly Scotland’s Graham Eggleton took the other medals.
In Edinburgh in 1986, England finally returned to the top of the podium with Andy Ashurst winning. Decathlon great Daley Thompson finished sixth. Though it was a Games record 5.30m, it was well outside the world top 100 that year.
The record advanced modestly in Auckland in 1990 when Australia regained the title through Simon Arkell’s 5.35m.
Finally in 1994 in Victoria, there was a world-class entry from Commonwealth record-holder Ockert Brits. However, the 5.85m vaulter failed his opening height of 5.50m and gold went to young Welsh vaulter Neil Winter, with a 5.40m Games record as a record nine cleared 5.20m. Another South African, Riaan Botha, who had also failed his opening height in Canada, fared far better in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 as he moved the record to a more respectable 5.60m. The silver originally went to New Zealander Denis Petushinskiy, but his failed drug test allowed Mauritius’s Kersley Gardenne to advance to a bronze.
In Manchester in 2002, Brits returned and in the best contest yet, six were over 5.50m or better. The South African won with 5.75m and Australia’s Paul Burgess won his second successive silver while Dominic Johnson gained St Lucia’s first medal.
In Melbourne in 2006, there was a home gold medal for Steve Hooker, who increased the record to 5.80m in defeating Commonwealth record-holder Dmitriy Markov. Steve Lewis won a bronze for England.
Lewis advanced to second in Delhi in 2010 as he shared the winning height with Hooker, who retained his title.
Gold medal winners
1930 Vic Pickard (CAN) 3.73
1934 Sylvanus Apps (CAN) 3.88
1938 Andries du Plessis (RSA) 4.11
1950 Tim Anderson (ENG) 3.96
1954 Geoff Elliott (ENG) 4.26
1958 Geoff Elliott (ENG) 4.16
1962 Trevor Bickle (AUS) 4.50
1966 Trevor Bickle (AUS) 4.80
1970 Mike Bull (NIR) 5.10
1974 Don Baird (AUS) 5.05
1978 Bruce Simpson (CAN) 5.10
1982 Ray Boyd (AUS) 5.20
1986 Andy Ashurst (ENG) 5.30
1990 Simon Arkell (AUS) 5.35
1994 Neil Winter (WAL) 5.40
1998 Riaan Botha (RSA) 5.60
2002 Okkert Brits (RSA) 5.75
2006 Steve Hooker (AUS) 5.80
2010 Steve Hooker (AUS) 5.60
Gold: Tim Anderson (Eng, 1950), Geoff Elliott (Eng, 1954, ‘58), Mike Bull (NIr, 1970), Andy Ashurst (Eng, 1986), Neil Winter (Wal, 1994)
Silver: Howard Ford (Eng, 1930), Bull (NIr, 1966, 1974), Ian Tullett (Eng, 1990), Steve Lewis (Eng, 2010)
Bronze: Brian Hooper (Eng, 1974, 1978), Graham Eggleton (Sco, 1982), Lewis (Eng, 2006)
Most successful athlete and Briton: There have been three double champions: England’s Geoff Elliott and Australia’s Trevor Bickle and Steve Hooker. Northern Ireland’s Mike Bull is the only athlete to have won three medals.
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