This one-time American-owned Olympic event was opened up to the world after East Germany’s Wolfgang Nordwig won in 1972, ending the U.S. streak of 16 consecutive gold medals. Americans rebounded to win the gold and silver medals in both 2000 and 2004.
1. 1964 – Hansen maintains U.S. dominance
The United States won 16 consecutive pole vault gold medals (not counting the semi-official 1906 Games) from 1896 through 1968. It took almost nine hours to win number 15 in 1964, and that victory wasn’t assured until then-world record holder Frederick Hansen was down to his last attempt at 16 feet, 8-¾ inches. Germany’s Wolfgang Reinhardt – Hansen’s lone remaining competitor – had cleared 16-6¾, while Hansen had passed. Both men missed twice at 16-8¾, so Reinhardt would’ve won if Hansen missed again. With the American winning streak on the line – and on Hansen’s mind, as he later reported – he cleared the bar easily on his last try, setting an Olympic record. Reinhardt then missed, ending the competition.
2. 1988 – Bubka gains last-chance victory
Sergei Bubka of the Soviet Union was a solid favorite in 1988, but he had to rally from a rough start. He suffered his first miss at 18 feet, 8-¼ inches, more than a foot below his world record of 19-10½. Bubka was sitting in fourth place, with two misses, before regaining his form when he needed it most, clearing then-Olympic record 19-4¼ (5.9 meters) by about seven inches to capture the gold.
by: Mike Rosenbaum