One on One: Pole Vaulting Expert Jan Johnson Sizes Up Safety of the Sport
Jan Johnson's own pole vault career peaked with a world record in 1970 and an Olympic bronze medal two years later, but he's been raising the safety bar ever since. A member of the Pole Vault Safety Certification Board, Johnson has served USA Track & Field as National Pole Vault Safety Chair since 1995 and conducted pole vault camps across the country for three decades running. In June, he met with the National Federation of State High School Associations regarding suggested improvements to the pole vault landing area — specifically, padding the interior of the metal plant box — and he will take his case to ASTM International next month. Safety concerns have haunted the sport since Penn State's Kevin Dare died after dropping headfirst into the box at the 2002 Big Ten Indoor Championships — the second pole vault fatality inside a week. According to the Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, as many as 19 student-athlete vaulting-related deaths have occurred since 1982 (last month, a 19-year-old collegiate vaulter died when he missed the pit during a rope-swing practice exercise). Paul Steinbach asked Johnson, whose daughter Chelsea vaulted to a silver medal at the World Track and Field Championships in August, to size up the state of safety in his sport.
Q: Why focus on the box?
Q: Would a padded box collar have saved Kevin Dare?
Q: What do you say to schools considering dropping pole vault for safety reasons?
Q: You've been neutral on helmet use, which is currently mandated by six state high school associations. Is a box collar mandate in order?
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Ithaca College Athletics and Events Center