Altendorf on ‘one of the most exciting experiences of my … career’

John before a blastoff.

John Altendorf is 66 and doesn’t have the energy of a 16-year-old. He just jumps as high as one. How does one vault 12-8 under such conditions? Very wisely, it turns out. John graciously responded to my request for details on his indoor WR at the Pole Vault Summit in Reno. John writes: “A vaulter, especially an older vaulter, has only a certain number of ‘full energy’ jumps before his performance begins to diminish—for me, about eight jumps. The height progression planned by the competition organizers (10-6, 11-2, 11-11, 12-4 and 12-8) fit perfectly with my game plan for attempting to regain the record. Ideally, I would make each of the first 3 heights on the first jumps, allowing me to attempt the record on my fourth jump. Even if I took three jumps to clear the record height, I would be able to perform at my best energy level. Although I made the first three heights on first attempts, at the lowest height my jump was sloppy. But because it was relatively low, I was able to save the jump and clear the bar.”

John continues:

The next two heights were clean makes but it became obvious I needed to be on a bigger pole so I moved to my 13-6 155. My first attempt at the 12-4 record was flawed; although I can’t remember why, I wasn’t even close. The second attempt was a strong jump with plenty of height over the bar, but an old technique problem of mine caused me to bump the bar on the way down.

Instead of hollowing my chest to keep it away from the bar, I threw my arms back too soon, which extended my chest out like “superman flying.” Although frustrated, I had confidence I could correct that mistake and clear the bar on my next jump and I did. I cleared the bar cleanly and with extra height, securing the record at 12-4 (technically 3.75m, as records are kept in metric measure).

At this point I had jumped six times and my last vault was very good. If I could repeat the last vault at the next height, I had a great chance of adding 4 more inches to the previous record jump. Conditions were ideal, but I was nervous, and my heart was pumping fast. Fortunately, everything went well on my first attempt at 12-8 (3.86 meters) and the bar stayed up, even though I touched the crossbar slightly.

I was still in the competition and eligible to jump at the next bar height, but I was emotionally drained and starting to feel less strong. Also, for some unknown reason to me, the next height was 6 inches higher than the previous. I felt the possibility of injury was greater than the possibility of making that bar so I withdrew from the competition. I made seven competition vaults, two of them world records.

Needless to say, that was one of the most exciting experiences of my masters vaulting career.

I must acknowledge the support behind this success. I appreciate the years of observations, suggestions and coaching from Dan West, Mark Vanderville and Dan Umenhofer, who coach at Raising the Bar Pole Vault Club in Eugene/Springfield, Oregon. Dan W., Mark and Dan U. were alongside the runway providing feedback and moral support. I also appreciate the great bunch of college vaulters from Lane Community College, coached by Dan West, who cheered me on after they completed their own competitions.

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January 23, 2013

One Response

  1. Bubba Sparks - January 25, 2013

    World class vaulter and person! Was thrilled to be there and see John defy both age and gravity again!!

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