The Olympic motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (faster, higher, stronger) rings truest during the athletics stream, the single biggest element of the London 2012 Games with 2,000 athletes competing in 47 events over 10 days in the Olympic Stadium. Google’s series of Olympic-themed doodles today honours the pole vault event, which kicks off with the women’s qualifiers.
Russia’s Elena Isinbaeva, perhaps the greatest female pole vaulter of all time, holds both the world record and the Olympic record in the women’s pole vault. Isinbaeva won gold at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games and she’s back to defend her title at London 2012.
The first woman to breach the five-metre barrier, Isinbaeva cleared 5.06m in Zurich in 2009 and at Beijing 2008 her record was 5.05m.
Ireland’s hopeful, Tori Pena, trained at Finn Valley Athletics Club in Donegal, coached by Patsy McGonagle, athletics manager of Ireland’s Olympic team.
Qualifiers for the men’s pole vault take place on Wednesday, 8 August. While the women’s competition only became a full medal event in 2000, the men’s event has been part of the Olympic Games since 1896.
Only 17 pole vaulters have reached the ‘six metres club’, and all of these are male. The first man to do so still holds the world record. Sergey Burbka of Ukraine cleared 6.14m outdoors and 6.15m indoors in 1985 – that’s over 20ft.
Overall, spectators will have high expectations for the athletics events, as 12 new Olympic records and five new world records were set during the athletics tournament at the Beijing Games in 2008, and several of these athletes have returned to compete in London 2012.