The pole-vaulting competition at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki was disrupted on Tuesday when a Finnish vaulter’s crash damaged the measuring equipment. When the event restarted, using a second pit where the equipment was intact, gusty winds hampered the vaulters’ efforts.
The pole-vaulting competition at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki was disrupted on Tuesday when a Finnish vaulter’s crash damaged the measuring equipment.
When the event restarted, using a second pit where the equipment was intact, gusty winds hampered the vaulters’ efforts, with half of the 12 qualifiers only clearing 5,45m. The other six cleared 5,6m.
“The conditions all day were pretty rough,” said American Brad Walker, one of those who barely made it through. “Basically, a lot of us had that first-attempt clearance at 5,45m. Then we had that standard kind of break-apart.
“After that, about an hour delay or however long it was, the wind seemed to pick up a little bit and it was very tough conditions to jump in.”
The delay came after Matti Mononen of Finland, easily spotted with a strip of blue hair, came crashing down on the bar so hard that it knocked down the measuring equipment. During the delay, pole-vaulting great Sergei Bubka—a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations council—came out to meet officials as they tried to figure out what to do.
“I was just trying to help out,” Bubka said. “It was unexpected and a decision had to be made quickly.”
Eventually, it was decided to lower the automatic qualifying standard from 5,75m to 5,6m, a height five vaulters already had cleared.
“The decision was made in the best interest of the athletes,” Bubka said, “but the wind was a disaster.”
Only one more made it over the bar at that height when the vaulting resumed.
“This is the first time I’ve seen somebody break the entire standard,” said Olympic silver medallist Toby Stevenson, who withdrew with a hamstring injury. “That was unfortunate because it postponed the meet about an hour and the wind just kicked up. It would have been a different meet if that hadn’t happened.”
Mononen, who failed to qualify for the finals, pulled a hood over his head and walked past reporters without talking.
American Nick Hysong, the 2000 Olympic gold medallist, led the qualifiers as the only one to clear 5,6m on his first try.
Bubka knows well the foibles of the pole vault in Helsinki. In the first world championships, held here in 1983, the pole-vault finals lasted more than seven hours after heavy rain and strong wind forced cancellation of the qualifying round. It took five hours for the bar to be raised to 5,6m, with eight still in the competition. Bubka cleared 5,7m to win the first of his six world championships.
by: Bob Baum
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