Americans won the pole vault gold medal in every official Olympic Games from 1896 through 1968 (not including the semi-official 1906 event). Bob Seagren, the 1968 gold medalist, might’ve continued that run for one more Olympics but for a dispute that played out during the summer preceding the 1972 Games.
In July, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) banned the new Cata-Pole used by Seagren, fellow American Steve Smith and others, following a protest from East Germany. That country’s top competitor, Wolfgang Nordwig, didn’t use the pole. The IAAF first stated that the new poles contained carbon fiber, then insisted that they hadn’t been available through “normal supply channels” for a long enough period of time. Others noted that the poles did not contain carbon fiber and, even if they had, IAAF rules did not ban carbon fiber poles, nor did the rules say anything regarding availability of poles through normal supply channels.
The IAAF reversed its decision on Aug. 27, then re-reversed itself on Aug. 30, one day prior to the pole vault event. IAAF officials confiscated the competitors’ Cata-Poles and gave them new versions of the old pole.
Nordwig went on to win the event with a best jump of 18 feet, ½-inch (5.5 meters). Seagren, who held the world record at 18-5¾, took the silver at 17-8½.
my understanding from Jeff Bennett was when the poles were “banned” the athletes went through every pole box available in search of the right pole… I believe Jeff indicated that the vaulters “tried” his poles in the prelims, maybe not, but I believe Jeff’s poles would have been way to small.. Jeff was 148 pounds and was jumping 16’..
In my conversation with George Moore he indicated they had used or tested the patterns, or innovation, before they made the poles green. The reason for the green color was to market the poles at the games. George said he had offered the poles to every top vaulter in the world at that time.. even Nordwig who turned them down because he didn’t want to change so soon before the games… I believe it was Nordwig or someone in his behalf that “filed” a protest that forced Paulöun to take action.
In my conversation with Adrian Paulöun at dinner in 1980 he said the poles were not “registered’ in the correct amount of time before the games so he had no choice but to band them. He said George argued very strongly that they were not “different”, only in color. But Paulöun said that argument didn’t hold up because the pole had been “advertised’ as a new innovation not only in a vebal campaign to get all the vaulters to use it but possibly in some marketing marterial or letters that had been sent to various parts of the world. He was very satisfied with his decision from a ‘technical” stand point and said that the countries the vaulters represented did not play a roll at all in what he did.
At this point in the conversation the dinner was over and I had very serious thoughts of having him dropped off somewhere in the desert to find his way north, and home, on his own.