This is the fifth column that Stuart Weir has written on the European Athletics Team Championships. 

women’s pole vault

The women’s pole vault was arguably the best event of the European Team Championship so far. 16 Vaulters were divided into two pools jumping alternately on two parallel runways. It was right in front of my seat to make it even better. The reigning European champion Wilma Murto (Finland) won, with 4.71. with Angelica Moser (Switzerland) second on 4.60 from Amalie Svabikova (Czech Republic) at the same height.

Murto said that she had been motivated by Tina Sutej’s 4.70 vault earlier in the week, commenting: “Tina and I are often head-to-head nowadays. The officials have told me that she already jumped 4.70 m (European Teams Division 2), so I´ve raised by 1 cm to get a win. I´m not sure about the tactics, I think everyone´s going to clear it in their first attempt. It´s slightly more stressful than tactical. It´s fun, but there´s an additional element as you don´t only jump for yourself but especially for your team as well. 16 points were the other thing that pushed me”.

The A group would have graced any pole vault competition. The B group was of lower standard but saw 5 vaulters achieve a PR. One of those was Britain’s Jade Ive, and I don’t think I have ever interviewed a more excited athlete. She started with four first-time clearances to reach 4.40, an outdoor PR. Then at the second attempt, 4.50, her best jump ever.

Jade Ives, photo by Sona Maleterova for European Athletics

An ecstatic Ive said, “It was two PBs! The outdoor one (4.35m) went first, and I thought, ‘I like that’, but I couldn’t believe it when I cleared 4.50m – well, I could believe it, I knew it was in there. It has been a long time coming! We have been working on my technique and changing my run – today, I ran much faster than ever. During the indoor season, I struggled to get onto the bigger poles, so we knew then that it was time to make a change, and the change has worked. I’ve got this newfound confidence. It is one of those things which was waiting to come out. And I’m so happy for it to happen today of all days. A lot of what we were working on was speed because I’m quite a slow vaulter. As well as running, I am working on the top part of the jump. I’m a lot faster on the pole as well. My gymnastic work is important, but I’m also vaulting a lot more this year”.

Aikaterini Stefanidi was 8th with 4.40. I always enjoy talking to her. I cannot think of a more thoughtful, honest, and engaging athlete on the circuit. She confessed that she had come into the competition with relatively low expectations because she has recently changed the brand of poles: “I think I had that in the back of my mind, and it didn’t allow me to focus and get a good rhythm. A good stadium in which to jump just a little empty”.

JUNE 24: Katerina Stefanidi of Greece competes in the Women’s Pole Vault – Div 1 Group A during day five of the European Team Championships 2023 at Silesian Stadium on June 24, 2023 in Silesia, Poland. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images for European Athletics)

She explained why she is a regular participant in this competition, which many athletes with her achievements do not support: “Coming from a small country, it’s important for me to participate and get points for my country. But we are professional athletes, and we should be paid to compete”. It’s hard to disagree with that sentiment, and one wonders what the future is for the event without prize money.

Competition seems to have become a struggle for the former Olympic and world champion who for several years was the lady to beat, but who this week was going out of a competition about 40cm below what she used to jump regularly; I tried to ask sensitively if she found life hard. She gave me her characteristic direct answer: “I honestly think that part of why I’m not jumping well is because it’s important to feel competitive and that I’m in the competition to win. Now I feel I’m coming into the competition to test the poles, to test my run-up, and to see where I am. I actually feel quite well. I’m healthy, and I’m training well. I am patient, and I believe my time will come again”.

I, for one, would love to see her time come again.