The pole vault has been contested at every modern Olympic Games since 1896. With drastic changes over the past few decades to training methods, track surfaces and the competitors’ equipment, significantly greater heights have been cleared. The sport requires significant speed, strength, flexibility and endless practice to hone the techniques necessary to succeed. The following list takes a look at the last five men to win Olympic gold in the event:
Steven Hooker: Hooker became the first Australian man to win gold in an Olympic athletics event in four decades by taking the pole vault title in Beijing in 2008. He became the Olympic champion with a vault of 5.96 meters-a new Olympic record. Also the winner of the event at the 2009 World Championships, Hooker’s career-best vault of 6.06 meters in 2008 trails only the legendary Sergey Bubka’s world-record heights.
Timothy Mack: The American captured the Olympic gold in the event at the 2004 Athens Olympics with a then Olympic record vault of 5.95 meters, edging compatriot Toby Stevenson in the process for the title. Mack’s best-ever vault of 6.01 meters in 2004 put him in select company as one of only 17 men to clear six meters.
Nick Hysong: Hysong was victorious in the pole vault in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics to take the gold for the U.S. He cleared 5.90 meters and defeated fellow American Toby Stevenson by virtue of fewer attempts to clear the winning height. Hysong had not come close to winning a major international pole vault competition prior to Sydney, but used his best-ever vault there to achieve Olympic glory.
Jean Galfione: The Frenchman emerged victorious over silver medalist Igor Trandenkov of Russia on fewer attempts at the winning height of 5.92 meters. Galfione is also a member of the “Six-Meter Club”-clearing exactly that height in 1999 to win the pole vault at the World Indoor Championships.
Maksim Tarasov: The Russian, competing for the Unified Team in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics, earned the pole vault gold with a best height of 5.80 meters, relegating teammate Igor Trandenkov to silver. Tarasov also won five World Championships medals and his personal best vault of 6.05 meters was accomplished in 1997.
By Patrick Hattman