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CR4 Olympic Coverage: Pole Vaulting

Posted July 11, 2012 7:07 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: olympics Olympics 2012

As with any other money making entity, the Olympic Games have various slogans, symbols, and mascots that, in addition to signifying the dignity and sanctity of the Olympic spirit, are also meant to be licensed for boatloads of cash!

Take that stupid, trademark-infringing knitters!

The Olympic rings and flag are universally recognizable. The mascots for each edition of the games receive at least some fanfare. Yet, do you know the tripartite Olympic motto? It was new to me upon my disclosure.

"Citius, Altius, Fortius." From Greek, it means 'Faster, Higher, Stronger.'

I'd say no other Olympic event embodies this motto better than the pole vault. Apart from looking silly, it's a game of technique, equipment, and of course--science!

...via Seattle Times


Let's begin with a little history. Ancient Egyptians are the first to document using long poles with a running and jumping technique to lay siege to enemy fortifications or reach insurmountable heights. Farmers would use poles like this to cross irrigation ditches and swamps. This methodology carried over to Ancient Greece, Ireland and Gaul as well, and the Celts of the Tailteann games were among the first to pole vault competitively. It seems as though pole vaulters originally competed for distance, but modern incarnations have athletes compete for height.

...via Gattfly's Nest

While the basic idea remains the same today, everything else has changed; but let's start with the equipment. Originally, pole vaults were ash in composition, before evolving to bamboo poles and hollowed aluminum. However, each of these types of poles did not have the energy return coefficient of today's modern materials, and have been replaced by preloaded fiberglass poles.

Fortunately, Discovery Channel Canada featured vaulting poles on an episode of "How It's Made." The somewhat complex process produces a pole in just an hour.

...via eHow

It's important where the athlete grasps the pole, as holding onto the pole higher results in a higher center of gravity. In fact, taller athletes have an advantage during pole vaulting, which is why women's pole vaulting has not caught on as much as men's pole vaulting: it's just physically impossible for women to achieve the same height.

Studies suggest that even with the most perfect of techniques, men cannot clear much more than 20 feet, while women can clear 19 feet. This holds water based on the current pole vaulting world record for men (20' 2 1/8" by Sergey Bubka) although the women's record falls short of this calculation (16' 7 3/16" by Yelena Isinbayeva).

Follow this link to watch three female pole vaulters talk about their skill level and say, "and like," a billion freaking times.

"Yelena...I know you can do better!" ...via Wikimedia

To begin, the athlete sprints down the runway with the pole in hand. A vaulter runs more straight-up than a sprinter to counterbalance the pole (frame 1, below). This sprint is essential to build quality kinetic energy and contributes to nearly 60% of the vault's height. As the pole is planted, it compresses from the athlete's kinetic energy and turns it into elastic potential energy (frame 2). The vaulter at this point has raised the pole over his or her head, with the dominant hand near the top of the pole and the submissive hand about 18" below. The submissive leg provides the initial lift off, and as the pole extends it transfers the potential energy back to the athlete in the form of gravitational potential energy. At maximum height, nearly all of the energy is transferred back to the vaulter. At this point, the athlete swings their legs over their head (frame 3), providing momentum from which they can launch themselves off the pole. The vaulter is typically upside down at this moment, pushing the pole away from the cross bar to prevent a foul.

From here, we have a vaulter upside-down about 15 feet or so in the air. He or she extends their legs over the crossbar, while rotating the body lengthwise 180° (frame 4). They now must focus on clearing all of their appendages over the bar, and the rotation of the body over the bar is natural with good form (frame 5). Finally, the vaulter is in kinetic freefall, where he or she should land face-up on a foam mat, and immediately be grateful this isn't 75 years ago when the athlete fell right to the ground. Ouch!

...via Wikimedia

"I love the pole vault because it is a professor's sport. One must not only run and jump, but one must think. Which pole to use, which height to jump, which strategy to use. I love it because the results are immediate and the strongest is the winner. Everyone knows it. In everyday life that is difficult to prove."

Those words from Sergey Bubka ring true in consideration of the scientific nature of the contest. It upholds the virtues of the Olympics better than most other sports, so it's a shame that it regularly gets subjected to midnight TV airings between water polo and wushu. It's just another example of Olympic organizers not giving the people me exactly what I want. (Which, for the record, is more Yelena Isinbayeva.)

"Call me, Yelena!" ...via Professional Muscle

Resources

ABC News - The Physics of Pole Vaulting

American Track & Field - The History of the Pole Vault

Popular Science - How it Works: The Pole Vault

Wikipedia - Pole vault

How Stuff Works - How Pole Vaulting Works

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#1

Re: CR4 Olympic Coverage: Pole Vaulting

07/14/2012 6:43 AM

Yelena is one really cool lady.
Kris tried to make me write something naughty about poles, but I a good pussy cat.
Del

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Guru

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#2
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Re: CR4 Olympic Coverage: Pole Vaulting

07/14/2012 7:06 AM

....moi ? I was busy with Dyke Jumping.

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