An epic pole vault competition

When Angelica Moser started the competition with two failures at her modest opening height of 4.43, few people would have thought she would have been going home with a gold medal, but that was the outcome at the end of an enthralling pole vault competition.

We started at 4.28 with eight of the 12 athletes entering the competition and one or two needing a second attempt. Moser entered at 4.43 and surprisingly took three attempts. Fully an hour after the competition started, Molly Caudery took her first vault at 4.58, clearing easily. By the time 4.58 was completed, we had lost five of the 12 athletes, including defending champion Wilma Murto, who was still recovering from injury. Three more exited at 4.68. Then there were four. Akaterini Stefanidi had a perfect record, Molly Caudery cleared 4.68 but only at the second attempt, similarly Angelica Moser. Elisa Molinarolo remained in the competition but without clearing 4.68. When Molinarolo failed at 4.73, We knew that the medalists were Moser, Stefanidi, and Caudery.

Caudery was just not at her best, needing two attempts at 4.68 and 4.73 before failing at 4.78 and 4.83; Stefanidi had reached 4.73 in four successful vaults but then failed at 4.78 and 4.83. Moser was the only one to clear 4.78, so the gold medal was hers as she equaled her national record. Moser had started badly but got her tactics absolutely right in passing at 4.73 when that would only have put her in 3rd place, to put all her efforts into an ultimately successful and winning vault at 4.78.

Women’s pole vault, Roma 2024, photo by Getty Images for European Athletics

Molly Caudery, who is always such an engaging interviewee, reflected on how her success in last year had changed her expectations: “Two years ago, I would be absolutely over the moon to finish like that. But I had higher expectations of myself today and was so close with my last jumps. But I am still very satisfied with this medal. Now, I am so excited – it is going to be my first Olympics, so that is my big goal. This was good practice, and I have learned a lot. I have gained all these experiences every time I have competed. I know what I am capable of. Today was not quite right, but that is OK. Thinking of Paris, I am getting a bit carried away. I have to go back to reality. Paris is my childhood dream, so I must be well prepared for it”.

Stefanidi said: “I think I am the oldest medalist on the podium right now. This is my fifth medal at the European Championship, and I am really proud to be again on the podium after ten years. Every time I win a medal I feel relieved from the pressure, I feel free. This silver medal gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. I want to celebrate and rest now”.

The winner commented: “We took the risk in the competition tonight, and it paid off. It was something I had to do when I was thinking about winning the gold medal. I am very proud to win my first senior outdoor medal. I think it helped me a lot already having the experiences from the youth championships and competitions. I love championships. So this helped me a lot as well as progress on the medal level at the senior championships.”

An exciting competition with an unexpected winner, but the person who held her nerve and managed the competition best.