Over the moon Katie makes history as she shares Pole Vault Gold with Kennedy
How often do you see two athletes agreeing to share a Gold medal in sports? After all the point of the game is to decide who is the best in a field of competition. You continue pushing them until one of them eventually cracks and awards the winner’s medal. That was the point of the Olympics. To decide the winner. The best. And ultimately, the champion.
The problem with that narrative is that how we perceive competition/sport has evolved over the years. It’s now a tool to tell stories beyond the realm of what happens on the track or in the field. Both Katie Moon and Nina Kennedy inspired each other to unprecedented heights in the women’s Pole Vault at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. Very rarely do you see two women clear 4.90m.
Nina Kennedy, co gold medalist, photo by Kevin Morris
Kennedy was the first to have a go at a 4.95m attempt, and after two failed attempts, Moon, who is the defending world and Olympic Champion, had a go at it too. With applause from the crowd, visualizing the moment, she knew a clearance would put her over the line. It was a tie and couldn’t be separated by the result. A jump-off was the next rational thing to do. Instead, they decided to do something different.
They went over to have a chat after failing to clear 4.95m, and it was about possibly splitting the gold. A few minutes went by, and you could see the smile on both of their faces. In the end, it wasn’t Hollywood; it was real life and competition. They opted to share the Gold.
Moon said that only because she already had a title to herself, and she at first assumed Kennedy would want a chance to win her own, too. But Moon was exhausted. So was Kennedy, whose legs were cramping.
“It’s funny because, until the Olympics, I never realized you could split the gold medal,” said Moon, the Olympic champion from the United States who now gets credit for defending her world title. “I just didn’t realize that was a thing. Coming into this meeting, you don’t expect that it’s going to come down to something like that.
Katie Moon, photo by Kevin Morris
They say the Pole Vault is like two competitions. First, you compete, you get in the medal position, and once you are in, the real competition starts again. Not like we haven’t seen a precedent like this, the men’s High Jump final at the Tokyo Olympics, which saw Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi famously decided to share their gold medal in the men’s High Jump.
Before coming here, Moon and Kennedy had met five times, with the American coming out tops in four of them. Moon would have taken her chances considering she had been in these moments before. Still, she opted to share. This speaks volumes about the sportsmanship between them both.
“And then when it looked like she maybe didn’t want to (go to a jump-off), it was like, ‘I don’t want to, either,’” Moon said. “Like, ‘Did we just become best friends?”. “I knew I could get on the podium, but it was a miracle to get the gold. So, I think a miracle happened tonight.”
Driven by the difference between gold and silver medal bonuses in contracts and a desire not to lose money by getting Silver, many people might not be a fan. A legitimate draw between two competitors who battled to exhaustion and have nothing left for a jump-off (even a sudden death at a lower height), could be a possibility. If they decide to share the title, the name should be changed to Co-Champion. That seems a better name, but is still moot.
Moon’s journey has been a tapestry woven with milestones. She consistently demonstrated her mettle, from her initial forays into local competitions to her representation at regional and national stages. Her technique, honed through rigorous training and expert guidance, has allowed her to master the intricate balance between speed, technique, and precision that defines pole vaulting. Moon’s performances have earned her recognition for her results and the elegance with which she approaches her sport.
As she continues to raise the bar, both figuratively and literally, Moon stands as a testament to the heights that can be reached through unwavering determination. Her presence on the field embodies the spirit of athleticism, where every jump signifies a conquest of fear and a triumph of will. With each leap, she defies gravity and pushes the boundaries of possibility, proving that dreams can be transformed into reality through grit and passion.
Moon’s shared Gold in Budapest just revealed a different side to her personality. As she continues to ascend to new heights, her story serves as an indelible reminder that with the right blend of determination, hard work, and passion, there are no limits to what can be achieved.