Here’s a funny story…..
After placing 4th at worlds I was dropped from NIKE. Well sort of dropped. Let me explain.
After my 2012 season, making the Olympic final, having one of the top 5 highest jumps of the year, and being ranked top 10 in the world, I was offered a contract that would allow me to purchase about a used 2008 Prius. And if you don’t know what that value is, lets just say that it is well below the poverty line.
I didn’t sign. I shopped around. A persons market value is only what the market is willing to pay them, even if we want to believe otherwise. I couldn’t sort out anything better from any other sponsor. So I jumped unattached for the better part of the season, knowing that I could always fall back on the NIKE deal. The reason that I finally signed was that I had a good feeling about Worlds, and wanted the medal bonuses the contract had to offer. And by the way, the contract would have locked me in for the next two years.
I reluctantly signed, and I was on my way. Now my shoes are made especially for me. I have a carbon plate inserted into the shoe because the base pv light shoe is not nearly stiff enough. Its a bit of a hassle to get new ones because they come out of Beaverton, and need a window of a few weeks to be made and shipped. And since I hadn’t signed my used Prius contract, I didn’t feel it was right for me to asked for new shoes heading into worlds.
So I took my NIKE pv lights into the comp and laced em up like normal. The velcro on the shoes is not up to par and I have complained about it’s lack of stickiness several times over the years saying we need to do better. The shoes share the same space as my chalk bag, the velcro fills with chalk, and gets even less grippy. So after warmups, knowing the straps were barely stuck on, I taped them. This isn’t new. If you google Brad Walker pole vault and hit images, you can scroll through pics and see that I have done this over the years.
The last thing I need at Worlds with a 1:00 time clock is to have a strap come loose and flop around during my approach. So….tape em up and lets go.
Big no no. The high ups at NIKE felt as though I taped up the swoosh and they knew I had competed in different tops throughout the season. I didn’t feel obligated to jump for NIKE when I wasn’t a NIKE athlete.
I received an email from my manager stating that the man in charge was absolutely furious with me. He stated that if I needed new shoes I should have ordered them. And then frankly said “We no longer want Brad, tell him to look elsewhere.” And there you have it.
I am no longer a NIKE athlete because while trying to use one of their products, I had to use tape to hold together a shoe that shouldn’t break down within 6 months.
The real bummer out of all of this is that if 4th best vaulter in the world can’t sign a deal that allows him to be a full time athlete, than I am scared at what our younger vaulters are going to be facing. We are truly amateur again.
I do have a plan. When I get back home, I am going to be opening up an ebay account. I am going to be selling every article of NIKE clothing and shoes that I own. Olympic jackets, pole vault spikes, Free’s, and training shoes etc. Some are slightly used, a ton have never been worn. I won’t be wearing NIKE again in my future, and liquidating may actually help me mentally as well as financially. That way I can pay rent and train like a professional athlete. I’ll keep you guys posted, but there is going to be some cool stuff up for grabs, and the money will be supporting the pole vaulting brotherhood.