POLE-VAULTING, the art of springing over an obstacle with the aid of a pole or staff. It is probable that an exercise of the kind was a feature of Greek gymnastics, but with this exception there is no record of its ancient practice as a sport. As a practical means of passing over such natural obstacles as canals and brooks it has been made use of in many parts of the world, for instance in the marshy provinces along the North Sea and the great level of the fens of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. The artificial draining of these marshes brought into existence a network of open drains or canals intersecting each other at right angles. In order to cross these dryshod, and at the same time avoid tedious roundabout journeys over the bridges, a stack of jumping poles was kept at every house, which were commonly used for vaulting over the canals.
As a sport, pole-vaulting made its appearance in Germany in the first part of the 1pth century, when it was added to the gymnastic exercises of the Turner by Johann C. F. GutsMuths and Frederich L. Jahn. In Great Britain it was first commonly practised at the Caledonian games. It is now an event in the athletic championships of nearly all nations. Although stieugth and good physical condition are essential to efficiency in pole-vaulting, skill is a much more important element. Broad-jumping with the pole, though the original form of the sport, has never found its way into organized athletics, the high jump being the only form recognized. The object is to clear a bar or lath supported upon two uprights without knocking it down. The pole, of hickory or som? other tough wood, is from 13 to 15 ft. long and if in. thick at the middle, tapering to ij in. at the ends, the lower of which is truncated to prevent sinking into the earth and shod with a single spike to avoid slipping. A hole in which to place the end of the pole is often dug beneath the bar. In holding the pole the height of the cross-bar is first ascertained, and the right hand placed, with an undergrip, about 6 in. above this point, the left hand, with an over-grip, being from 14 to 30 in. below the right. The vaulter then runs towards the bar at full speed, plants the spiked end of the pole in the ground about 1 8 in. in front of the bar and springs inio the air, grasping the pole firmly as he rises. As he nears the bar he throws his legs forward, and, pushing with shoulders and arms, clears it, letting the pole fall backwards. In Great Britain the vaulter is allowed to climb the pole when it is at the perpendicular. Tom Ray, of Ulverston in Lancashire, who was champion of the world in 1887, was able to gam several feet in this manner. In the United States climbing is not allowed. Among the best British vaulters, using the climbing privilege, have been Tom Ray, E. L. Stones, R. Watson and R. D. Dickinson; Dickinson having cleared n ft. g in. at Kidderminster in 1891. The record pole-vault is 12 ft. 65 in., made by W. Dray of Yale in 1907.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)