Tucked away in a Bolton industrial unit on a cold winter Saturday, Jeff Hayhoe set a new Canadian pole-vaulting record for the 40 to 45 year old age group, by jumping nearly four and a half metres into the air.
He jumped his way to the new record alongside his 13-year-old daughter.
She was on one runway; he was on the other.
She jumped 2.23; he jumped 4.43.
It was in front of a crowd of nearly 100 athletes, parents and spectators.
“It was fun that we were jumping together,” Hayhoe said of the experience.
While he broke the record, he didn’t want to get too excited because, as any pole-vaulter knows, it’s always about the next jump.
“I thought I was going to make the next one,” he said of the next planned jump of 4.53 or 4.63. “So I didn’t want to start celebrating too much.”
The problem with a sport such as pole-vaulting is that “you always finish on a low note because you miss it,” he said.
But, as a veteran vaulter, that’s something he’s used to.
“I knew I was going to jump high,” he said. “So it was nice to break a record.”
Hayhoe recently entered into the new age group, so while the record-breaking jump was exciting, he said, it didn’t come as a huge surprise.
“I thought I could go a bit higher,” said Hayhoe. “But as a coach, running the event and trying to compete, it’s a lot.”
The record Hayhoe broke was older than he is. The previous record was set in 1972 by Roger Ruth, who jumped four metres and 42 centimetres – a testament to the sports decrease in popularity throughout the past several decades.
Doug Wood, who competed for Canada in the 92 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, didn’t realize Hayhoe was about to break the Canadian record for his age group.
When Hayhoe asked to raise the bar to 4.43, he thought: “4.43? What the heck is 4.43?” Wood recalled thinking.
But when Wood learned about the record, he was “pumped,” he said.
Wood, a longtime Bolton resident, started the local club with Hayhoe’s help last year.
What started out as 10 students has more than doubled. The club now has 25 students who come from as far as London and Niagara.
They started off “squatting” on the unused, unmaintained tennis courts at Humberview Secondary School two summers ago. They cleaned them up, cut the grass that had started to grow between the cracks in the pavement, threw down the runway and put locks on the gate.
During winters, they rent out a warehouse in Bolton’s industrial area – the only type of building with high enough ceilings. Even still, the club was limited by the ceiling last year.
This winter that hasn’t been the case, luckily, said Wood. They found a temporary unit with 35 foot ceilings.
“You can jump pretty much as high as you want,” he said with a chuckle.
The club is one-of-a-kind in the country. It’s a true grassroots club, which is trying to reinvigorate the lost sport. And they have the expertise to do it.
An Olympic qualifier for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games “is real for this group,” said Wood. “We’re not speculating from the coach.”
With Wood, one of very few former Canadian pole-vaulting Olympians, Hayhoe, who has more than 25 years of jumping experience and held three national championship titles in a row, and Zdenek Krykorka, a junior champion in his home country, the Czech Republic, and one of Canada’s most notable pole vaulting coaches, who was Wood’s longtime coach.
“For us, this is a very likely or very strong possibility that we’ll have people on these teams,” he said. “And if not them, it’ll be the next one.”
The biggest challenge for the club is finding the time – both Wood and Hayhoe both have full-time jobs and young active families at home.
“Some days I’m just flying along by the skin of my teeth to make it go,” said Wood with a pained laugh. “Everybody is pretty pumped about this. “
While the sport is an entirely different beast than the sports going on at the same time many miles away in Sochi, during the Winter Olympic games, the spirit still sunk into the day’s competition.
“You feel some sort of connection to being a Canadian athlete,” he said. “It’s nice to know you’re sort of a big family.”
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