Part 2: The Rest of Men's Pole Vault
Time to move on to the women's game! :)
I talked about Yelena Isinbayeva in Part 1. She hasn't won a World Championships since 2013, but still, her presence in the sport has always been huge. With her retirement, we officially move to a post-Isinbayeva era, and it's going to be really interesting to see the new generation stepping up.
Jenn Suhr (USA), 2004-present
Personal bests: 5.03 (indoors), 4.92 (outdoors)
Jenn Suhr is the only other woman besides Isinbayeva to have ever jumped over 5m. Her mark of 5.03, which she jumped in January 2016, set the new indoor world record (Isinbayeva still holds the overall world record of 5.06).
Jenn has had a long and illustrious career, highlighted by gold in London (preventing Isinbayeva from winning three in a row), silver in Beijing (with a 4.80 to Isinbayeva's 5.05), gold at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, and silver at the 2008 and 2013 World Championships. She's also won a crazy 15 US Championships (6 indoor, 9 outdoor).
In Rio she contracted a virus and was only able to manage 7th, which was unfortunate given her strong season to date and the fact that, at 34, she doesn't have many chances like that left. Her position at the forefront of American pole vaulting is now under siege from Sandi Morris.
Here's a video of the first time she cleared 5m, in 2013:
Since I mentioned Sandi, let's talk about her next.
Sandi Morris (USA), 2014-present
Personal bests: 4.95m (indoors), 4.93 (outdoors) [see update! PB outdoors is now 5m!]
In my opinion, it's just a matter of time until Sandi becomes the third woman to clear 5m, and I think she'll be one of the big stars of women's pole vault for years to come. Still only 24, her results since emerging onto the international stage in 2014 (after a stellar NCAA career) have been excellent. She has an Olympic silver, a Worlds silver, and a gold and two silvers from the US Championships. Plus her PB of 4.93m outdoors (cleared July 2016) is currently the American outdoors record.
She's also very Internet-savvy, and has not only an Instagram, a Twitter, a website, and a Youtube channel (all common among athletes these days), but a tumblr as well, called "Anyone Can Dance On A Pole, But I Can Fly On Mine." If you want to know more about Sandi, that's a great place to start - I haven't read it all but she has an in-depth blog about her silver-medal experience in Rio, for example.
Sandi can occasionally come across as trying too hard with the "oopsie-cute Southern-girl" charm, but if you read my Renaud Lavillenie section, you'll know that I'm willing to overlook and even be charmed by that sort of thing if the results are there to back it up. ;) And Sandi definitely has the results! So let yourself be charmed by this video:
Because there's also this video:
Also, can I just say, an athlete who breaks their wrist in a snapped-pole accident seven weeks before the Olympic Trials and not only competes in Trials and makes the team, but wins the frickin' silver medal at the Olympics? That's badass.
Post-Isinbayeva, and with Suhr already 34 years old, Sandi will be a vaulter to watch.
UPDATE (9/9/2016): Today in Brussels (last Diamond League event), Sandi jumped 5 metres!!! She's only the third woman EVER to get over 5m. So excited and happy for her. :)
Ekaterini Stefanidi (GRC), 2012-present
Personal bests: 4.90m (indoors), 4.86 (outdoors)
So Sandi won the silver in Rio, but who won the gold? Meet Ekaterini Stefanidi!
Ekaterini is the daughter of a triple jumper and a sprinter, which sounds to me like a great combination of genes for a pole vaulter. :) She's also a scholar, going to Stanford for undergrad and getting her master's in cognitive psychology.
She was an Olympian in London, although she didn't make the final. Her first major international success came in 2014, when she placed 2nd in the European Championships. In 2015 she equalled that result, and in 2016 she had her biggest year yet, winning the European Championships, coming third at Worlds, and winning the gold medal in Rio! Her gold medal jump in Rio was only a centimeter under her outdoors personal best, so that's amazing to do under such big pressure.
Although Ekaterini's PBs aren't as high as Sandi's or Jenn's, she still definitely has potential for 4.90+. And at 26, she should be entering her peak pole-vaulting years. If she can keep up her 2016 form, she'll always be in the mix for medals at Worlds and Europeans.
Here's an interview with her from right after she won gold in Rio (it's in Greek, so I have no idea what she's saying, but she's so happy):
Eliza McCartney (NZL), 2016-present
Personal bests: 4.80m (outdoors), 4.70 (indoors)
Eliza's rise has been meteoric! She's a 19-year-old college student from New Zealand, the daughter of a high jumper and a gymnast, who transferred from high jump to pole vault in her teens. Although she owns the outdoor junior world record, she only made her senior international debut in March, at the World Championships, in which she placed 5th. 5th in her first senior international competition! Her long-term goal as late as 2015 had been to make the 2020 Olympic Team, but instead she made the 2016 Olympic Team. :D And not only did she make the Olympic team, she won the bronze medal, with a jump that equalled her personal best of 4.80m! Talk about a huge year.
Since Eliza is only 19 and already winning medals at the highest level, it's going to be really exciting to see what she can do in the long term. I was initially unsure if she'd focus on college and only do things like Worlds, but in this interview after she won bronze she says she's studying part-time and wants to do Diamond League this next year. So I'm really excited about that - I want to see much more of her and see what she can do!
Yarisley Silva (CUB), 2007-present
Personal bests: 4.91m (outdoors), 4.82(indoors)
Yarisley has a wonderful story. She's the first Cuban woman to be world-competitive in pole vault, and competing internationally was difficult early in her career. Although she was reaching world-competitive heights as early as 2006, it wasn't until 2011 that she was able to regularly compete on the international circuit worldwide (instead of just regionally, and sporadically at that). That transition catapulted her PB upwards, and she emerged in 2011-12 as one of the world's top jumpers. At the 2012 World Indoors Championships she placed 7th, and at the 2012 Olympics she equalled her then-personal best of 4.75m to win the silver medal!
That was only the beginning. Since her silver in London, Yarisley won bronze at Worlds in 2013, and then won back-to-back Worlds titles in 2014 and 2015. In Rio she, like Jenn Suhr, had a disappointing meet and finished a dual-7th with Jenn. But she's still VERY much someone to watch going forward! With her World titles, she's one of the favorites at any event she enters.
Yarisley winning the 2015 World Championships:
Look at this joy:
Fabiana Murer (BRA), 2005-present
Personal bests: 4.87m (outdoors), 4.83 (indoors)
At 35, Fabiana is one of the older athletes on this list, and I'm not sure if she intends to retire now that she made it to her home Olympics (especially given her health concerns), but until she makes it official, she's far too good to be left off this list. :) Her long career includes 2010 and 2011 World Championships gold, 2015 Worlds silver, and 2008 Worlds bronze. The Olympics have been difficult for her - in 2008 she was tenth, in 2012 fifteenth (did not qualify for the final), and in 2016 she no-marked (recovering from a cervical spine injury).
Fabiana initially trained as a gymnast, and also dabbled in long jump. (Gymnastics and high jump/long jump are often feeders to pole vault, having similar skills in common.) Here are some Q&As about her that give a sense of her personality. :)
And here's a good, in-depth interview with her.
Alana Boyd (AUS), 2007-present
Personal bests: 4.81m (outdoors), 4.55 (indoors)
Alana is the first Australian Olympian to be herself the child of two Australian Olympians (her father was a double-Olympic pole vaulter, her mother a triple-Olympic sprinter). Although she has never medalled at the Worlds or the Olympics, she's a triple-Olympian herself, and this year in Rio she turned in her best top-level international performance, coming 4th. She cleared the same height as Eliza - 4.80, only one centimetre off her personal best - but had a miss at the height so lost the tiebreaker (Eliza was perfect through 4.80).
Alana's younger siblings also compete internationally for Australia - theirs is a family of athletes! Jacinta is a long jumper, and Matt is another pole-vaulter. Here's Alana and Matt representing Australia together at the Commonwealth Games in 2014:
In the last year, Alana's regional records have started falling to Eliza, and there's an element of generational change here - Alana is 32 and Eliza is 19. Eliza has said in interviews that she really looks up to Alana. :)
Holly (Bleasdale) Bradshaw (GBR), 2011-present
Personal bests: 4.87m (indoors), 4.71 (outdoors)
Like many pole vaulters, Holly came to the sport late. She initially trained as a gymnast, then switched to running at 11, and finally started pole vault at 17. Within three years she had set a new British record of 4.70m. And in 2012 she cleared her lifetime personal best, 4.87m (still 8th on the all-time personal best list), and won a bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships. That gave her high hopes for the London Games, but unfortunately she was only able to capture 6th place. (Four years later in Rio she would place 5th.)
That's also when this happened:
6th in the Olympics and @bradshaaaw proposes to me :) epic day!!!— Holly Bradshaw (@HollyBleasdale) August 6, 2012
(They married in 2015 and Holly changed her name from Bleasdale to Bradshaw.)
Besides Holly's 2012 Worlds bronze, her other biggest result is winning the 2013 European Championships.
A short piece with Holly:
Demi Payne (USA), 2015-present
Personal bests: 4.90m (indoors), 4.71 (outdoors)
Demi is the daughter of Bill Payne, a former international-level pole vaulter. Her international results so far are the lightest of anybody on this list, but she makes it by virtue of her massive PB, which is tied for 5th on the all-time list (behind Isinbayeva, Suhr, Morris, and Silva, and tied with Stefanidi). She won the 2015 USA Indoor Championships (took bronze in USA 2015 Outdoor), and took bronze in the 2016 USA Championships. Unfortunately for her she was struggling with recovering from a thumb injury and placed 16th at the Olympic Trials, missing the team. Her only top-level international result so far is 19th at 2015 Worlds.
Part of the reason Demi's career is still just beginning, even though she's already 24, is that she has been juggling young motherhood and college at the same time (she competed for Kansas before her daughter was born in 2013, and then transferred to Stephen F. Austin to be closer to her family). Now that she's emerged onto the international scene in 2015-16, hopefully we'll see continued improvement from her in the years to come. Anyone who can jump 4.90m is definitely in the mix for medals!
Demi and her daughter:
I hope you've enjoyed this fandom primer/pimping post! ♥ If you have any questions, want me to add another vaulter, and/or have any corrections, please don't hesitate to get in touch. 2017 is going to be a great year for pole vault, I can feel it in my bones! :)