Watch Brad Walker's Early-Season 19-Foot Pole Vault

Red Shannon@@rojosportsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2012

EUGENE, CA - JUNE 08:  Brad Walker of the United States clears the bar to set an new American pole vault record of 6.04 meters during the Prefontaine Classic on June 8, 2008 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

To most pole vault fans, one name is synonymous with the rare air above 20 feet. And with good reason—only one man has breathed that air.

It is true that no other vaulter has come within nine centimeters (3.5") of Sergey Bubka's indoor (20'—2.25") or outdoor (20'—1.75") world records.

And that fact recognizes 20 years of attempts.

But Brad Walker's American record of 19'—9.75" comes closest of all active challengers to Bubka's outdoor record.

Last night, at the annual Reno (Nevada) Pole Vault Summit, Walker served notice that he intends to be a contender—if not for the world record—at least for a gold medal at this year's Olympic Games in London, July 27— August 12.

The University of Washington graduate won the men's elite competition with an impressive 19-foot effort.

Walker's vault in Reno is important because it comes so early in the season, when most vaulters are still working on conditioning and form at lower heights. As the video (below) clearly shows, Walker's form looks superb and his clearance of the bar at 19 feet appears to be close to 12 inches.

The question now is, can Walker pace himself through the indoor and outdoor season, qualify in Eugene at the US Olympic Trials (June 22-July 1) and then peak again in London? It might be noted that Walker set his American mark in June, 2008 at Eugene's Hayward Field.

On the global front, the once-dominant American vaulters will meet stiff resistance from Frenchman Renaud Levillenie, Pawel Wojiciechowski of Poland and Australian Steven Hooker.

And you can bet that Bubka, now an executive with the IAAF (T&F's governing body), will be a very interested spectator.

Related Update, January 22, 2012 - In Lyon, France, 20-year-old British vaulter Holly Bleasdale came oh, so close to the magical 16-foot barrier with a world-leading 15'—11.5". Only three women in history have pierced the 16-foot envelope. Again, a very impressive vault, considering Bleasdale's tender age and the early season.

Good Pole Vault Sites:

Pole Vault Power

Neo Vault

Vaulting Techniques