Historic World Athletic Championships in Pole Vault
Moon and Kennedy clear 4.95m, the first pair to share gold at a World Athletics Championship.
Team USA, as expected, dominated in the 2023 World Athletics Championships held in Budapest, Hungary. With 12 gold medals and 29 medals overall, there was a strong showing from the U.S. In the 100 meter dash, both Noah Lyles and Sha’Carri Richardson sprinted past the field, winning gold, with Lyles also getting the gold in the 200m for the prestigious 100-200 double; the last U.S. athlete to achieve this was Tyson Gay in 2007. In the throws, Crouser dominated the shot put as usual, throwing over a meter more than any other athlete. Grant Halloway repeated his gold in the 110m hurdles. The US had a very strong showing, walking away with 12 gold medals and 29 medals total.
Outside of Team USA, many fan favorites did extremely well. Faith Kipyegon got the elusive 1500m/5000m double gold for Kenya; Femke Bol won gold in the 400m hurdles, redeeming herself after tripping in the mixed 4x400m for the Netherlands, and Neeraj Choprawon won gold in javelin, which was the first time India has won gold in javelin.
In pole vault, the competition for both the men and women was the strongest it has ever been, with shared medals between the U.S. and Australia on both sides. On the Women’s side, history was made. Every athlete on the field in the final had to clear the auto-qualification height of 4.65m during the preliminary round two days before the final. As a result, four U.S. women competed in the finals: Katie Moon, Sandi Morris, Hana Moll, and Bridget Williams. Moon, as the reigning champion, was granted auto qualification to compete in the championship. For the first time in World Athletics Championship history, Katie Moon and Nina Kennedy, representing Australia, shared the gold medal. Both athletes cleared 4.85m during their first attempts to get ahead of Wilma Murto of Sweden, and both clinched 4.90 on their third attempts. After both missing 4.95m, Kennedy and Moon decided to share the gold.
The controversy of ties occurred days prior to the vault competition in the men’s 100m dash, in which second, third, and fourth were determined by thousandths of a second, with much pushback regarding the photo finish. In vertical jumps, ties with placement after the same height clearance are then determined by the least number of attempts over the last height cleared, and if that is the same, then the least number of missed bars overall is placed higher. If they have the same number of overall missed bars then the competition is declared as a tie. First-place ties are able to be settled with jump-offs, where both competitors are in an immediate elimination competition. Both get a fourth attempt at the previous height and depending on if they miss or make the height, the bar is raised and lowered in small increments. If one vaulter makes the bar and the other does not, the competitor that succeeded wins the event. While this is a possibility, it was shown in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that this was not the only option when Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar shared the gold medal for high jump — the only other vertical jumping event in track. However, when this occurred with Moon and Kennedy, the fan reactions were mixed from both the pole vault community and the track community at large. Many made negative comments, saying it had already happened once before, referring to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, or that they were shameful, uncompetitive, and showed no sportsmanship. Despite the minor outrage, this was the most competitive pole vault competition the world has ever seen, and there was a short turnaround from the preliminary round to finals.
When this occurred with the men’s high jump, there was much less backlash compared to what was received by the women. Moon made a public statement on her Instagram defending their decision suggesting that due to the duration of the event and the weather, there was an inherent danger to continuing the event. Additionally, as those who watched the event could see, they were gassed and an additional jump would have proven dangerous. This was a historic event in pole vault history and an amazing display of sportsmanship between two world-class athletes
In the men’s vault, there were also multiple firsts. Kurtis Marshall and Chris Nilsen shared the bronze medal, with much less public reaction other than the coincidence of an additional shared medal between Australia and the U.S., respectively. During the competition, after they’re both eliminated, they both celebrate as the competition continues between Armand Duplantis, the favorite for the event by far, and the rising star Ernest John Obiena of the Philippines for his highest placement in a world championship yet. This competition was also very difficult, as just six years ago the third place height of 5.95m would’ve won the entire competition, but now even a 6.00m jump only gets you second place. The 6.00m barrier is huge in pole vault with only 28 athletes in the exclusive 6m club, the competitiveness is only topped by the women’s 5m club consisting of only four members. Duplantis won, showing his dominance in the event with a clean performance of no misses before he attempted a new world record at 6.23m; he won the event with a clearance of 6.10m with much room to spare.