Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Jumping Trains

Bringing Track and Field from the Stadium to the Station

copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/, all rights reserved

Imagine arriving at Zurich's Central Station.

You don’t know that a pole vault competition is taking place inside this cavernous structure.

You hear loud music and rhythmic clapping.

Then – a huge roar from a crowd you cannot yet see.

For me, you ask?

Well, no.

The roar was for Russia’s Timor Morgunov, the most under-celebrated 6.0 meter (19'8.25") jumper in the history of the event, who two weeks ago was lost in the shuffle of Mondo Duplantis’ epic, history-making 6.05 meter European title.

The roar was for Shawnacy Barber’s return to form to nab 2nd place with a season’s best 5.86.

The roar – twice – was for Australia’s rising star Kurtis Marschall who set PBs at 5.81 and 5.86 to add an impressive 6cm to his lifetime best. He outjumped some of the event’s most notable names.

Poland’s energetic and dynamic duo of Pawel Wojciechowski and Piotr Lisek finished 4th and 6th, a central European sandwich around France’s vaulting legend, Renaud Lavillenie, who has little experience with finishing 5th.

Observed outside the competition area just before the event began, Lavillenie looked tired and distracted. His left leg was bandaged with tape above and below his knee. Uncharacteristically, on his first jump he knocked the bar off with his hand on the way down.

The vaulters were energized by the crowd and vice versa. Technique was remarkable on a number of jumps, and push-offs were frequently textbook in their breathtaking quality.

A delightful unexpected moment came in the narrow area between the crowd-control fence and the runway, when a pair of feet appeared upside down above the fence and continued to walk down the side of the runway. Lisek was stretching, getting ready, presumably, for his patented pre-jump roar.

“This place is so awesome,” said Wojciechowski. “It was great.”

“We love competition like this when the crowd is closer to us and the music is loud,” said Lisek. “That’s what we live for and we want to do it. We want to jump at the stadium and we want to jump in an exhibition like today.”

Both are comfortable jumping in what might be, for many, distracting conditions.

“We try to be so consistent with our runways and our approach that we don’t look anywhere else,” said Wojciechowski, the 2011 World Champion.

The Polish duo finished each other’s sentences when describing how they maintain focus.

“We both focus on our jump – nothing outside,” continued Lisek.

“(The runway) is our 40 meters and that’s what we need to do,” concluded Wojciechowski.

The Weltklasse is intentional in bringing the sport from the stadium to the station, both literally and figuratively. As tonight’s rousing response demonstrates, it is nothing but successful. Combined with Tuesday’s seven-city “Training Mit Den Stars”, the Weltklasse is setting a high standard for other communities, governing bodies, and nations, even, to emulate.

2016 Women's Pole Vault
Zurich Central Station
photo courtesy of Zurich Diamond League/Weltklasse

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