HELSINKI, Finland – Brad Walker of Spokane thought there was a chance the pole vault would be postponed Thursday because of high winds.
Luckily for him, it wasn’t.
Walker, a graduate of University High School and a former University of Washington athlete, won silver at the world track and field championships, clearing 18 feet, 10 1/2 inches on another windy day that wreaked havoc with the event. Most of the field was knocked out after the first three heights, and only Walker and champion Rens Blom of the Netherlands made it through to attempt 19-0 1/2 .
Blom cleared it for a season’s best and the gold.
“The conditions, they were rough,” Walker said. “A lot of the vaulters we were waiting around to see if they were going to postpone the vault like they did with the women’s. Luckily things died down a little bit into the competition. We had a lot of side winds, a lot of head winds to deal with and you can tell it was a hard day of vaulting just with the results.”
Blom had one lucky clearance at 18-6 1/2 , when he hit the bar. It bounced up and down, but stayed in place.
“I couldn’t believe it stayed on,” Walker said. “He made (19-0 1/2 ), you can’t take anything away from him just because he had one lucky jump.”
Walker has had a terrific year after finishing sixth at the U.S. trials last year. He won the U.S. indoor and outdoor championships this year and was the top American vaulter going into the competition.
Now Walker hopes his second-place finish will lead to better performances.
“I’m excited to start training for next year because I think there’s bigger and better things to come,” said Walker.
It had been 21 years since a UW track and field athlete finished on the medal stand at the world championships or in Olympic competition. The last was Sterling Hinds, who was part of Canada’s bronze-medal winning 1600-meter relay team in the 1984 Games. The last Husky to score a medal in individual competition was Steve Anderson, who won silver in the 110 hurdles in the 1928 Olympics.
Two other athletes with local ties competed on Thursday. Dominque Arnold, a former Washington State athlete, was second in his semifinal heat of the men’s 110 hurdles at 13.39 seconds to qualify for today’s finals. Anders Moller, a former University of Idaho athlete, placed 12th in the men’s triple jump finals at 53-01/4.
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