TAMPA – Lacy Janson stood at the US Airways check-in counter at Tampa International Airport Wednesday and patiently watched the circus play out in front of her.

The two blue bags with USA written in red on the side were no problem and could easily be checked through to London. The carry-on backpack, emblazoned with lettering that said USA Track and Field, did not raise an eyebrow.

But that 15-foot canvas bag resting on the floor behind Janson quickly became a source of confusion and consternation.

The agent attempting to check in Janson quickly conferred with a co-worker. Soon, a third agent joined the meeting. Then a fourth, this one armed with a tape measure.

Qualifying for the 2012 London Summer Olympics in pole vaulting was difficult for Janson. But getting her equipment to the games seems almost as challenging.

“It happens almost every time,” said Janson, who patiently explained to each of the agents that she would not book a flight without making certain the tools of her trade could also make the trip. “I come to expect something and if something does come up … it’s ‘been there, done that.’

“There seems to be always someone who looks at the bag and insists that it will never fit on the plane.”

Inside the unwieldy 15-foot bag that weighs 45 to 50 pounds were eight vaulting poles, paraphernalia that helped send the 29-year-old Cardinal Mooney High graduate soaring past the 15-foot mark and landing her on the U.S. Olympic team.

This time the conference of agents concluded that the container would be treated as an extra checked bag, a charge of $100, a small price to pay, as long as the poles arrive in London on Thursday when she does.

“That’s my only worry now, having them arrive at the destination,” Janson laughed. But it would be no laughing matter should Janson face the biggest moment of her athletic life without the equipment that helped get her there.

And one thing she has learned while traveling as an athlete is that there is no guarantee that her equipment will follow.

Janson has had poles lost … and returned a year later. Traveling from France to Italy, the poles never made it, even though her name and address were on the bag.

“They ended up being in the Miami airport for a year,” Janson said. “They were doing some cleanup, found them and sent them back.”

Once made out of bamboo or aluminum, poles are now made out of fiberglass or carbon fiber. Competitive poles typically range in length from 14 to 17 feet and at varying stiffnesses (flex ratings).

Janson carries a couple of warm-up poles, including one with a smiley face near where she grips it with her upper hand. The pole she uses in competition depends on conditions and the way she feels on a particular day.

“A lot of people don’t realize that I use more than one pole,” she says.

And airlines aren’t always willing to listen to pleas that the poles are the lifeline in her sport.

One of the first years she traveled to a major meet in Venice, Italy, she was told that the bag of poles was too big and not allowed on the flight.

Janson picked up her luggage and the bag of poles, took an escalator and trolley to another terminal. She eventually found an airline that would take the poles, but she had to purchase another ticket.

Wednesday turned out to be no such trouble.

Janson arrived at TIA in a white Toyota SUV with her mother, Laurie, and family friend, Tom Allman. She quickly, and expertly, unstrapped the poles from the top of the car on the passenger side.

Then there were lingering hugs and kisses with her mother while Allman toted the bag full of poles into the terminal.

Once the confusion at check-in was solved, Janson lugged the bag of poles and her luggage to the bag check area, leaving them to be transported to the plane.

But not before the bag had caused a stir among other passengers. Several people walked up to the bag for a closer look.

Janson is used to the stares. She anticipates the questions. “Some think it must a mast for a boat,” Janson says. Or maybe really long skis.

This time, on the eve of the Olympics, several in the crowd put two and two together and came up with an American athlete heading to the 2012 London Games.

Janson, unburdened by the poles, posed for some photos and signed autographs.

Then she was off.

by: Mic Huber

from: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20120725/ARTICLE/120729745/-1/news?p=3&tc=pg

Pole Transportation
Pole Transportation

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