The Women’s pole vault was EPIC, and Stuart Wants us to appreciate the battle and sharing of the gold medals with Nina Kennedy and Katie Moon.

An epic pole vault competition

The women’s pole vault turned into an epic battle with, in the end, Nina Kennedy and Katie Moon unable to be separated.  When Wilma Murto and Tina Šutej bowed out on 4.80, Kennedy and Moon went head to head. Both cleared 4.85 on the first attempt and took three attempts to clear 4.90. Neither could clear 4.95. It would have been a shame for either of them to lose, so the award of joint gold medals seemed the best outcome.

Katie Moon, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

Kennedy commented: “I jumped out of my skin tonight. It was super crazy. I felt like the whole stadium was watching every single jump. They were all around us tonight; it was really incredible. I cannot explain it. It was surreal. All the girls were jumping so well tonight. I think the Olympic final next year is going to be red-hot. To win a gold medal, it is just a dream come true – I knew I could get on the podium, but it was a miracle to get the gold. So I think a miracle happened tonight”.

Nina Kennedy shares the gold with Keith Moon, photo by Kevin Morris.

Moon’s perspective was: “When the final started, I didn’t think sharing a gold medal would work for me, but now I am completely satisfied. What a battle it was! When it became obvious that only Nina and I were still jumping, the show had just started. I think we both motivated each other. When she had a good attempt, I also wanted to have it. It was tiring but worth the effort. What an amazing night. I hope everyone enjoyed that one. We did”.

Regular readers will know that I have a certain fascination with the women’s pole vault. And a lot of it is Katie Moon’s fault! I traveled to a lot of track meets without giving a thought to how pole vaulters got their poles from meet to meet. About seven years ago, I was traveling to the Doha Diamond League via Abu Dhabi. I met Katie Nageotte (now Mrs. Moon) in the transit lounge. On arrival, I waited anxiously for my suitcase, Katie more anxiously for her poles.  They arrived. Over the years, I have been privileged to see Katie win the 2021 Olympics and the 2022 (and 2023) World Championships, establishing herself as undoubtedly the world’s leading woman vaulter and to talk to her on a number of occasions.

Katie was fifth in the world indoors in 2018 and seventh in the world in Doha? 2019, I was interested in her journey and how she got from being a good pole vaulter to being number one. Her answer started in an unexpected way: “I think it was the year of COVID when luckily, we were able to keep training when a lot of people couldn’t.  I’m always better after a pre-season when we have a couple of months vaulting, technically the way my coach wants me to.  It’s easy to revert to bad habits, and you sometimes play catch-up during the season.  And during that year, I knocked out a lot of bad habits just through repetitions.  In pole vault, repetitions on the runway are the way you get better, more than any other.  And I finally had the time. Then when my poles broke – I think in May 2021 – I got to try different brands and find the perfect one.  I showed that I could jump high on all three brands I tried, but it comes down to what is best for your jump.  So breaking the poles was a blessing in disguise”.

Katie Moon, sharing gold medal, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

As well as improving her technique, there were other issues to fix: “I had to tackle the mental things before I could fix the technical things.  They are equally important, but if anything, I would say the mental is more important.  In the previous year, the technical ability didn’t go anywhere, but when mentally you are feeling down and doubting yourself and are running through, nothing is going to happen.  So for me, the mental is more important – that has always been the issue for me.  I was doing a lot of things technically wrong, but we couldn’t fix them until we fixed the mental side so that I was attacking on the runway rather than being afraid of it.  That doesn’t go away, but I’ve learned how to keep it at bay”.

Katie also gives a lot of credit to her coach, Brad Walker (the 2007 world champion), for her development: “Brad really is the perfect coach for me because he has never yelled at me or got mad at me for not doing something he wants.  He is a very motivating presence, and I have always wanted to do what he was telling me to.  He doesn’t tolerate anything less than working your hardest.  And I needed that when I first went to him because I didn’t know how to work that hard.  It sounds kind of weird, but I was skating by on potential, talent, and he helped me get to a different standard.  He is the perfect balance.  He understands vaulting and simplifies it in a way that I can understand it.  If I’m getting emotional, he makes it matter-of-fact and keeps the emotion out.  He gives me all the technical things that I need.  When I get a little worked up, emotional, anxious – I tend to be a very anxious person – he is good at being that voice of reason, telling me that I’m going a little overboard.  Like, ‘step back, you are good’”.

Katie has threatened to retire after Paris but is in a good place now.