Anyone who was at Sutton Arena in Carshalton on Sunday 9th December would be forgiven for thinking that they had inadvertently crossed the space time continuum on route to the centre and got caught up in some sort of time warp.

The centre was awash with pole vaulters from across the last five decades. All were gathered to celebrate the life of former pole vault coach, Les Hooper, who passed away in the summer.

Les was Father to former British record holder, Brian Hooper and former leading junior pole vaulter Richard Hooper as well as being Grandfather to current UK leading Under 15 vaulter Tilly Hooper.

Les was hugely influential as a pole vault coach in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, holding posts as Southern Staff Coach and for a time, National Event Coach. His natural exuberance and enthusiasm was infectious and inspired so many young vaulters across the south of England and beyond. The extent of his influence and popularity was plain to see as so many pole vaulters turned up to support this inaugural event. Amongst the two dozen competitors were former Commonwealth Champion Andy Ashurst, and silver medallist Ian Tullet. Neither of whom had vaulting for some years but such was their regard for Les that they supported the competition as a mark of respect and affection to their former coach and friend. Former Olympians Kevin Hughes and Peter Gabbett were also present along with numerous former British internationals. Many of the competitors had come out of long time retirement to show their support for an old friend who may be gone but is certainly not forgotten. Popular BBC Commentator Paul Dickenson, himself a friend of Les, added an air of professionalism to the occasion by offering his services as event announcer.

The event was a huge success and a fitting tribute to a great friend of pole vaulting. More than fifty people sat down to enjoy a meal after the competition and reflected on past glories and times with Les.

The Guest of Honour was Les’s Wife Doris who was joined by several close family members. The event, organised by The London Pole Vault Academy will become an annual summer fixture from 2013 and open to all age groups.




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