Gold medal heights in the pole vault at the Summer Olympics 1896-2016

The pole vault has been included as a men's event in all Olympics since the Athens Games in1896, while the women's event did not feature until 104 years later at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Historically, the United States has been the most successful nation in the pole vault at the Olympics, winning all gold medals between 1896 and 1968 (including two golds for a joint victory in 1908), and currently has 21 golds across the men's and women's events. The current Olympic record for men was set by Brazil's Thiago Braz da Silva in 2016, with a jump of 6.03 meters; and the women's Olympic record was set by Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva in 2008, with a jump of 5.05 meters. Isinbayeva also set the world record for women with a jump of 5.06 meters in 2009, while the men's world record of 6.18 meters was set by Armand Duplantis of Sweden in February 2020. Isinbaya holds another record, as the only woman to have won two Olympic gold medals, in 2004 and 2008; the US' Bob Richards is the only man to have won two golds, in 1952 and 1956.

Rules and regulations

Although there is much more equipment used for the pole vault than for most other track and field events, the apparatus has arguably fewer restrictions placed upon it than any other event (such as the javelin throw). Athletes can use poles of any length or diameter, and made from any combination of materials. The pole's surface must be smooth, but athletes can use as much tape to the grip and ends of the pole as they like. For the run-up, the runway is at least forty meters in length, and athletes can place two markers on the runway to help them time their jump. After completing the run-up, competitors plant their pole in a meter long box that's sixty centimeters wide at the front, fifteen centimeters wide at the back, and twenty centimeters deep at the back wall. The wall is used by the jumpers as the pivot point before they begin their ascent.

In the air

Once the jumper's feet leave the ground, there are strict rules about the position of the hands on the pole; the lower hand may be moved upwards, but neither hand can move higher than the upper hand's position upon take off. The crossbar is 4.5 meters in length, and vaulters are allowed to decide what height the crossbar is to be set at before they make each attempt. After three consecutive missed vaults, the competitor is eliminated from the competition. If two or more competitors jump at the same height then the number of missed vaults is used to determine the winner; if the number of faults is the same for each competitor then a jump-off is used to decide the winner (although this is rare). Because of the techniques used in the pole vault, many competitors have backgrounds in gymnastics rather than track and field (although higher speed and power do give a large advantage at the top level).

Gold medal winning heights in the Men's and Women's pole vault at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2016

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Release date




Survey time period

1896 to 2016

Supplementary notes

This data was collected using the official site, as well as a spreadsheet from the Guardian that includes data from 1896-2008 (available here), 2012 and 2016 data was compared with that from Encyclopaedia Britannica, and several news outlets were used to update the table when medals were reassigned (i.e. for doping offenses).

The winning athletes (male listed first) and their represented countries are as follows:
1896 - William Welles Hoyt (US)
1900 - Irving Baxter (US)
1904 - Charles Dvorak (US)
1908 - Alfred Carleten Gilbert (US) & Edward Cook (US)
1912 - Harry Stoddard Babcock (US)
1920 - Frank Foss (US)
1924 - Lee Barnes (US)
1928 - Sabin Carr (US)
1932 - William Waring Miller (US)
1936 - Earle Meadows (US)
1948 - Guinn Smith (US)
1952 - Bob Richards (US)
1956 - Bob Richards (US)
1960 - Don Bragg (US)
1964 - Fred Hansen (US)
1968 - Bob Seagren (US)
1972 - Wolfgang Nordwig (East Germany)
1976 - Tadeusz Ślusarski (Poland)
1980 - Wladislaw Koziewicz (Poland)
1984 - Pierre Quinon (France)
1988 - Sergey Bubka (Soviet Union)
1992 - Maksim Tarasov (Unified Team)
1996 - Jean Galfione (France)
2000 - Nick Hysong (US) & Stacy Dragila (US)
2004 - Timothy Mack (US) & Yelena Isinbaeva (Russia)
2008 - Steve Hooker (Australia) & Yelena Isinbaeva (Russia)
2012 - Renaud Lavillenie (France) & Jennifer Suhr (US)
2016 - Thiago Braz Da Silva (Brazil) & Ekaterini Stefanidi (Greece)

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