1st June 2011



01 June 2011

Pole Vault was the word on the street today as stars of the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland squad descended on Birmingham’s Victoria Square for a vaulting spectacular. The event was staged to herald the arrival of the Aviva Series, with two high profile athletics events set to hit the city twice this summer.

Hundreds of people watched in awe as Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Max Eaves led a star-studded line-up of ten British pole vaulters showcasing the gravity-defying stunts necessary to excel in the sport.

The competition, which was hosted by former European 400m champion and Olympic silver medallist Iwan Thomas, was made all the more spectacular with the inclusion of a double-decker bus adjacent to the landing mat, so spectators could see just how high the vaulters actually flew.

The crowd were given an early indication of the dangers of the event when Eaves’ pole broke on take-off to one of his attempts, before local-boy Nick Crutchley won the competition with a height of 5.15m, celebrating by performing his final vault without his vest!

And Eaves, who will compete in the city at the Aviva UK Trials and Championships on 29-31 July, hopes the exhibition will attract more people around the country to get behind athletics.

The Newham and Essex Beagles vaulter said: “It was so exciting to get out there in front of such a great crowd. There were people all over the place and everyone seemed to be loving it. There were a lot of people laughing; I hope that’s a good thing. There was just a real buzz around the place and it was great to be a part of.

“A lot of people seemed to be shocked with how high it actually is. When people see it on the television they don’t get a real feel of how high up we’re actually going, so I think people are quite astonished with that. It’s quite similar to shot put in that respect, no-one appreciates how heavy those things are until you pick up one. I can’t believe I’ve just likened pole vault to shot put.

“It took a while for us to get used to the surroundings – it’s fair to say it was a little different to our usual scenery. At the end of the landing mat there was a bus and to the left and right buildings – not your average session.

“I think the key for the session was making people aware, not just in athletics in general, but life beyond the 100m and things like that. There are some tremendously exciting events out there and I hope the people of Birmingham got to see that today.

“We’ve got some huge events coming up here in the Aviva Series – some of the biggest in the world – and I hope people who otherwise might not have, will come on down and give it a go.”

The Street Pole Vault proved yet another example of the athletics’ pulling power to west midlands, with an unprecedented three Aviva Series meets already set to hit the region this year, the next of which will be the inaugural Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix on 10 July, part of the illustrious Samsung Diamond League.

Presenter Thomas, who currently holds the British 400m record, welcomed the event and expressed his delight at the west midlands’ desire for world-class athletics.

The Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix, which, like the trials, will also be held at the newly-renovated Alexander Stadium, will showcase some of the finest talent from around the globe, including a head-to-head between the fastest man on the planet in 2010, Tyson Gay, and former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell.

And Thomas believes fans will be clamouring for the event’s few remaining tickets after the pole vault extravaganza from Eaves and his squad-mates.

“It was just a great day all round,” said Thomas. “It had everything. The crowd looked like they had a great time and I enjoyed it as much as anyone.

“For a local-boy like Nick, who is nick-named He-Man by the way, to win and then have another go without a top on sent the crowd wild and that’s exactly what this event is all about.

“Of course events like 100m are brilliant, but for sheer excitement and danger, you can’t beat pole vault. Look at what happened to Max when his pole broke. Luckily he wasn’t hurt, but at least it showed how much effort and danger these guys go through.

“Hopefully people from the city will see how exciting the sport is and, what with Birmingham’s incredible sporting history, we can see many more athletes emerge from the region.”

These sentiments were echoed by UKA’s National Event Coach for Pole Vault, Alan Richardson, who hopes the event will inspire a new generation of Birmingham-based pole vaulters.

He said: “I was delighted for all the athletes. They produced fantastically as a team and there were some outstanding individual performances in there as well.

“Hopefully this will inspire some people who hadn’t even thought of getting into to come down to an athletics club and get involved.”

The Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix will be at the Alexander Stadium on 10 July and the Aviva UK Trials and Championships will be at Alexander Stadium 29-31 July.  For tickets or more information go to uka.org.uk/aviva-series or phone 08000 556 056