Commonwealth Games Preview: Pole Vault

If you’re looking for a bit of daring and danger in your Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games watching, nothing tops the high-flying pole vault, a sometimes risky and always entertaining affair.

What is it?
One of the more unique events in the athletics schedule, pole vaulting makes use of a long flexible pole to aid athletes in jumping over a suspended metal bar. Unlike other athletic events, the proper technical skill and use of the equipment is just as important as physical attributes such as speed and strength.

Pole vaulting developed first in the wettest areas of Europe, such as the Netherlands, where jumping poles were commonly used as a means of getting across otherwise difficult-to-cross marshes and canals. The first official competition was held in England in 1843, and it has spread from there.

Each athlete can choose which height they wish to attempt to jump, and has three attempts to clear that height. Once they have missed three attempts in a row they are out of the competition, and ranked according to the highest jump they successfully achieved.

The pole vaulting begins with preliminaries on July 30, before the men’s final on August 1 and the women’s final on August 2.

The Aussies
Aussie pole vaulter Alana Boyd is headed to Glasgow 2014 with a clear mission, to defend the gold she won at the Delhi 2010 event. Boyd boasts a personal best jump of 4.76m.

Joining Boyd in the women’s competition is sister team Elizabeth and Vicky Parnov. Elizabeth was Australia’s national champion in 2010, and Vicky is the current national champion, having won the title in 2012. Both are making their Commonwealth Games debuts after decorated junior careers.

The Parnov sisters aren’t the only family connection in the pole-vaulting team however, with Alana Boyd’s brother Matthew also representing Australia in the men’s competition. Joel Pocklington will also be in the green and gold in the men’s pole-vaulting.

The Competition
Australia is in a good position, having won gold in both the men’s and women’s events at Delhi 2010 and will be looking to stay on top of the podium. A close threat, as always, with be the English team.

Steve Lewis, who won silver at Delhi 2010, has recently been confirmed as England’s best hope after being crowned the British Champion earlier this year. Sally Peake is England’s women’s champion.

Fast Facts
– A number of different materials have been used to make poles for competitive pole vaulting over time. At first solid wood poles were used, followed by bamboo and aluminium, neither of which were very flexible. These have been gradually replaced by more flexible materials such as fiberglass or carbon fiber.
– If you think the brother-sister team of Alana and Matt Boyd competing together in the pole vault is impressive, you should meet their parents. Mother Denise and Father Ray are both gold medallists in past Commonwealth games, Ray in the pole vault and Denise in the 200m sprint.
– When he’s not busy practicing the pole vault, Joel Pocklington likes to unwind by making things even riskier. His Youtube channel, Joel’s Crazy Tricks, is not for the faint of heart!

What to Drink while watching
Something as daring as the pole vault required an equally challenging beverage. You want something colourful and sickly sweet – think blue curaçao or Midori-based cocktails. An alcohol-lite version will be the fruitiest mocktail you can muster, complete with a drink umbrella.



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