Olympic Goal Achievement – Pensioner Pole Vault!

I recently wrote about how the London Olympics had got me thinking about sports I could take up, and how the idea of throwing the discus in sequinned platform boots appealed. In this article I want to talk about something similar that happened after Sydney 2000…

"goal achievement" "the great gordino"

and no, this *isn't* me...yet...

Long time readers will know that I have loved the Olympics for a long time, 1976 was the first one I can remember watching, although Munich in ‘72 probably made its’ way into my brain too!

I watched the 2002 Winter Olympics, and was drawn in by the sport of curling, watching the GB women take gold, and after watching it again at the 2006 Games I found that England’s only curling rink was only 35 miles away!

I took up the sport and fell in love with playing it, although any Olympic hopes were soon dashed – partly by the politics of the sport, and partly because I am not much good at it (and that‘s the polite way of saying it!)

It does tend to happen during an Olympics, winter or summer, that I want to be involved, I want to have some of that passion so clearly on display. So, let’s go back to 2000…

The women’s pole vault.

It was making its’ debut in the Olympics, hard to believe I know, but it had previously been considered unsafe for women. Stacy Dragila took gold, with a young Russian called Yelena Isinbayeva failing to make it out of the qualifying round.

Isinbayeva would go on to dominate the event for years, and that was something that had always puzzled me in the men’s event – how could one person be so dominant in an event that was a combination of strength and technique?

With the men it was Sergey Bubka, but surely the strength could be built up, and the technique could be developed? It wasn’t even as if no-one knew Bubka’s technique, which centred around where he held the pole.

I decided after watching the women in 2000 that I would have a go. Yes, I was 34 at the time, but age is just a number, right?

So, I rang up the local athletics club and found out that they had a pole vault session coming up. I asked if I could come along, and got a puzzled sounding ‘ok then’ in response.

I turned up on the day, and after the coach had got over the fact that I wasn’t one of the parents, we got down to business with the rest of the 13 year olds.

We did some starting exercises, one of which included pelting down the track with the pole and seeing what happened. Not exactly elite sports science I know, but I was amazed at what the coach told me next…

I had cleared a height of 2 metres, which was ok, except that the British record at the time was 2.37…for the HIGH JUMP!

The coach told me that I was now in the top 20% of pole vaulters in the county, because most people were too scared to even take off! I wasn’t sure if I supposed to giggle at that or not, but I didn’t giggle at his next bombshell…

He told me that the pole vault was only done once a month. Once a month? The elite athletes would be training for hours a day, but I would be looking at a few hours a month.

I think I knew deep down that my career at the pole vault would probably stop at 2.00 metres, because such little training opportunity would not really be enough for a 13 year old, let alone a 34 year old beginner.

As I watched London 2012, I did wonder what might have been had I kept it up, I could have had 12 years of training under my belt, although once a month over 12 years probably adds up to a couple of weeks for the elite athletes.

Oh well, I had tried it.

I have to be honest, there are a couple of events pulling at my ‘have to try’ heart strings after London 2012, and it may well be that the pole vault may yet have company on my list of tried sports ( I’ll leave the long jump story for another time)

Is there something you want to try? Something that others tell you is just ridiculous? Or maybe it’s something you tell yourself is ridiculous? Well, here’s an idea – do what I did!

Don’t listen to others, ignore yourself for a while too, and go out and try it! You may well find, like I did with the pole vault, that you were right all along, and that it was a touch on the silly side, but you’ll know you went out and actually found out for yourself.

The tagline of London 2012 was ‘inspire a generation’ – it didn’t say which generation, did it!

ok, til next time,
Health & happiness,
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, type ‘Olympics’ into the search box at the top right to read my other Olympics articles. You might also enjoy my motivational book on Kindle ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’, described as ‘a joy to read’

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  • I love the attitude Gordino! I so agree sometimes we have to just stop listening to others telling us what we can’t do and just do those things we dream of doing. Congratulations on your 2 metres and being in the top 20%. On another note that reminds me of when I was a teenager and I was made to do PE with the boys for a week as punishment (Hardly punishment for a teenage girl!). One of those days was high jump. Now I am only 5 feet 1 so you can imagine the scenario. I ran towards that high jump like I fully intended to jump then I smoothly (in my mind) dove under instead, the boys thought this was hilarious and cheered me on. Oh dear, the punishment, another week of PE with the boys! Next event basketball … OUCH, turns out the boys were serious about basketball and I was shown no mercy for being a small girl lol. Ahhh the memories.

    • Ha! Impressive high jump technique! I might even make myself up a certificate for myself with my 2 metres personal best on it!
      There is a programme by Sport England where you can try Olympic sports and fundraise for charity – I think I might give it a go, you never know!
      Memories indeed (thankfully with no pictures)!

  • Really enjoyed this, Gordon. I’ve tried some new things this year as part of my celebrations for becoming 50, and I have a few more up my sleeve. It’s also possible to take up new things and make them an important part of your life – in the last year or so I have learned to do all sorts of exercises using a Swiss Ball and since our instructor became pregnant I have been the “demonstrator” to the rest of the class – how to do jackknives and pikes etc – all of whom are usually younger than me. I just tried out something that looked impossible and found I was rather good at it…so you never know!

    • Excellent! The Swiss Ball is the big one like a space hopper, right? I love the thought of us trying something new and finding out it’s something we can do, and enjoy – if only more people did it instead of saying ‘I can’t do that!’
      Thanks for stopping by! Gordon

  • I am always finding things to try.I don’t care if people think its silly or whatever they think about it.If its something I want to try,I just do it.I just dont do the physical things anymore,since I am on oxygen 24/7. For instance some people think its silly for me to try and get a business going on the internet. But I just say bulls__t.

    • So many people find it easier to put an unusual idea down then to support it. Sometimes I have questioned people’s doubts, and when questioned they can’t back it up with reasons.
      When I then ask why they have doubt as the default setting, they can’t answer that either!

      That’s why we often doubt*ourselves* too, but I prefer your approach of ‘do it anyway’, and let others wish they had the same attitude!
      Cheers, Gordon