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Athletics at the 1972 München Summer Games:

Men's Pole Vault

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Host City: München, West Germany
Venue(s): Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, München
Date Started: September 1, 1972
Date Finished: September 2, 1972

Gold: GDR Wolfgang Nordwig
Silver: USA Bob Seagren
Bronze: USA Jan Johnson


The two best jumpers in 1972 were defending champion [Bob Seagren] and Sweden’s [Kjell Isaksson]. But also highly considered was 1968 bronze medalist [Wolfgang Nordwig] (GDR), who had won the 1966, 1969, and 1971 European Championships. Seagren and Isaksson were using the new Cata-Pole. But on 25 July the IAAF declared that pole to be illegal. The protest against the pole was lodged by the East Germans – Nordwig did not use that pole – based on the fact that it contained carbon fibers. When it was pointed out that the pole did not contain carbon fibers, and that IAAF rules did not specify any material prohibitions on poles, the IAAF banned it anyway because the equipment had not been available to all competitors for the past 12 months. It was also noted to the IAAF that their rules had no such requirement. Then on 27 August, the ban on the poles was lifted and it was announced they would be allowed. However, three days later, the IAAF again reversed itself and reinstated the ban on the poles, confiscating them from the pole vaulters rooms in the Olympic Village. (Obviously, Olympic officials in 1972 were more concerned with what was in the rooms of the Olympic Village than providing security for the place.)

In the competition, Isaksson was severely hampered by the rule change and did not clear a height in qualifying. At 5.30 (17-4½), four vaulters were left in the competition – Nordwig and Reinhard Kuretzky (FRG) clearing that height, while Seagren and [Jan Johnson] passed to 5.35 (17-6½). Kuretzky went out at 5.35, with Nordwig and Seagren getting first attempt clearances. Johnson went over on his third effort and would do no better, winning the bronze medal. At 5.40 (17-8½), Nordwig cleared on his second attempt and Seagren on his third. But Seagren missed 5.45 (17-10½) while Nordwig won the gold medal at that height, and went on to get over 5.50 (18-0½) as well. Seagren’s world record was 5.63 (18-5½) and he was incensed by how he had been manipulated by the officials. After his last vault, he took the pole he had been forced to vault with and handed it back to IAAF President Adriaan Paulen.

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Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal
1 Wolfgang Nordwig 28 East Germany GDR Gold OR
2 Bob Seagren 25 United States USA Silver
3 Jan Johnson 21 United States USA Bronze
4 Reinhard Kuretzky 24 West Germany FRG
5 Bruce Simpson 22 Canada CAN
6 Volker Ohl 22 West Germany FRG
7 Hans Lagerqvist 32 Sweden SWE
8 François Tracanelli 21 France FRA
9 Ingemar Jernberg 21 Sweden SWE
10 Wojciech Buciarski 22 Poland POL
11 Khristos Papanikolaou 30 Greece GRE
AC r2/2 Antti Kalliomäki 25 Finland FIN
AC r2/2 Hervé d'Encausse 28 France FRA
AC r2/2 Tadeusz Ślusarski 22 Poland POL
15 QR Silvio Fraquelli 20 Italy ITA
16T QR Ray Boyd 21 Australia AUS
16T QR Mike Bull 25 Great Britain GBR
18 QR Steve Smith 20 United States USA
AC QR Kirk Bryde 22 Canada CAN
AC QR Renato Dionisi 24 Italy ITA
AC QR Kjell Isaksson 24 Sweden SWE