Katie Moon is the two-time World Championship gold medalist and Olympic champion for the Men’s pole vault. Stuart Weir wrote this piece on Katie Moon and her incredible 2023!
Katie Moon on the World Championships
Katie Moon entered the World Championships in Budapest in August 2023 as the reigning World Champion but as a short-lived reigning champion. With the 2021 World Champs Covided out and postponed for a year. The 2021 World Champion had only one year to bask in that glory.
Nonetheless, she arrived in Budapest as World Champion – did that give extra confidence or add a pressure, I wondered? “A little bit of both, but I would say more confidence. I think it just solidifies to myself, ‘OK, you are good at this’. You can go out there confident. You know what to expect, but you know anything can happen. So be ready for that. But you know how to execute. You know how to make things happen. You know how to win. Does that mean I’m going to win every time? No, but I know how to handle it going out there, and it does give me a lot of inner confidence, and I’m very grateful for that. But it’s taken years, and it’s taken a few big wins to really feel this way. But it definitely adds some pressure for sure, but I like that, and I think I really try to see it more as OK and this gives confidence.
2023 World Athletics Championships, Women’s pole vault, photo by World Athletics
On paper, the qualifying looked comfortable, 3 jumps boom, 3 bars, and through to the final, but as Katie pointed out, that was more work than she had expected: “What’s interesting is that it was the most I’ve ever jumped in a prelim. So that was actually more taxing than any previous qualification at a championship that I had ever experienced. It’s always great to do whatever the minimum is, but for example, the year before, it was one and done, and so was Tokyo, and so to come into the qualification at Budapest and have to jump three times meant we were out there for longer and three jumps in a prelim setting is definitely a bit more – I don’t want to say emotional – but it’s just more taxing and more exhausting and so again, I very glad to just get to do whatever the minimum was that day. But it was it was a bit more taxing than I had expected it to be because the girls were just jumping so well. It was just a reflection of how good the women’s pole vault is becoming. The depth that’s there. A lot of women set PBs to make it to the final, so it is really cool”. Cool, but using up a little more energy than expected.
Katie Moon, 2023 World Championships, photo by Kevin Morris
In the final, 12 ladies were reduced to 8 at 4.65, and two more failed at 4.75. Only 4 were still going after 4.80 at which Katie needed a second attempt. Murta and Sutej failed at 4.85, leaving just Katie and Nina Kennedy, who each took three attempts to clear 4.90. By the time both had failed at 4.95, Katie had taken 11 vaults and Nina 12. Then, as Tamberi and Barshim had done in Tokyo, the pair decided not to have a jump-off but to settle for joint gold medals. At the time, Katie said: “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”.
Katie Moon and Nina Kennedy discuss sharing gold in the W Pole Vault, photo by Katie Moon
When we talked several months later, she was pleased to have been nominated – with Nina – for a World Athletics Fair Play Award but frustrated at the negative reaction to not having a jump-off. I asked her to reflect on the decision to share the gold medal and title of World Champion: “I’m so happy with it”, she told me. “I mean, it’s interesting, after the Fair Play Award announcement, people were still commenting pretty negative things about it. At the end of the day I’m so happy with how that went. I think I’ve said everything I need to say on it, but I just know that was exactly how that should have played out, and I’m thrilled to have walked away that day with another gold medal – and to be just as happy that my friend got to walk away with the gold medal too.
Katie Moon, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
“People see athletes as if we are entertainment as if this are our job, and so we should be able to do literally anything and everything that we’re ever asked of us. And I get it. I mean, I’ve watched sports my whole life, and you definitely get kind of caught up in this: ‘How could they make that mistake? How could they do this? How could they do that?’ And you just need to realize that we are human beings, and unfortunately, pole vault is dangerous [particularly when you are tired after 11 vaults]. All sports have their risks, but for us, we are existing 4 to 5 meters off the ground, so if we get up in the air but don’t execute correctly, we’re going to land badly. So I wanted to live to fight another day”.
To finish as Olympic Champion and double World Championship does not seem too bad.
Katie Moon, World Championships 2023, photo by World Athletics