01 December, 2017

A great article on women's pole vault

In a series of technical articles published in Athletics Weekly, sports scientists from Leeds Beckett University analysed several events that took place during the London, 2017, World Championships in Athletics. A full report will be published by the IAAF in 2018 but in the meantime one article, on women's pole vault, drew my attention. The fact that the event was won by a greek athlete (K. Stefanidi, nominated European athlete of the year for 2017) and that a greek scientist (Dr. A. Bissas) was heading Leeds the team did certainly play a role in myself being interested in the article

The study of the biomechanics team was based on 3-dimensional motion analysis from video obtained during the event. The run-up velocity, something regularly studied in the biomechanics of pole vault, was also obtained by the Leeds team, measuring the speed of the athlete in the interval between 5 and 10 m before the jump.  As expected (from empirical observations) S. Morris was the fastest with Stefanidi being OK but not outstanding.  

The analysis has also shown that Morris is the one taking off the furthest from the box (a full 4 m) while Stefanidi is edging closer, at just 3.2 m. This results to Stefanidi having the steeper take-off angle. (I do like a lot the sketch below).

It is in fact my personal feeeling that Katerina is not relying on her speed in order to jump high. Her approach is one based more on force and well executed technique. This explains also her consistency. Compared to R. Lavillenie, who is probably the fastest pole vaulter but also one somewhat unpredictable, with inexplicable misses and frequent no-heights, Katerina's technique looks decidedly safer. Also it allows her to opt for higher starting heights with fewer risks.

One other interesting feature of the Leeds study was the bar clearance height. Quite expectedly Stefanidi's clearance was the smallest one, a mere 21 cm, compared to Ryzih's 37 cm, but then one has to take into account the fact that Katerina was adding that to a bar at 4.91 m (Ryzih's clearance was for her 4.65 m jump). I do hope that in the detailed report the biomechanics team will explain how they did measure the clearance. Could it be a new way to appreciate the height of a jump as recommended by A. Juilland? I guess we'll have to wait till the report comes out.

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