Track nuts call the women's pole vault an "emerging event"
because it has been seriously contested internationally for less
than a decade, records fall often, and dominant performers appear
suddenly and then quickly fade. Fair enough: Since 1991 the world
record has been broken or tied 30 times by six women.
Everybody else calls it an emerging event because it's the
freshest thing in the sport, with hyper-fit women flying high on
fiberglass poles, wearing skintight Lycra suits and emoting after
each vault like Deion Sanders on a caffeine jag. "The women are
attractive and camera-friendly, and they go out and get involved
with the crowd," says pole vault promoter Brooks Morris. In
Sydney, NBC will hop on this event and ride it like Secretariat.
That means 29-year-old U.S. vaulter Stacy Dragila will likely
spend the night of Sept. 25 in America's living rooms. She's one
vaulter who appeared early on--winning the U.S. Olympic trials
exhibition in 1996--and hasn't faded. After running hurdles and
competing in rodeos as a teenager in northern California, Dragila
started vaulting in '93. She won the '99 world title in Seville
with a world-record-tying vault of 15'1" and has since tied the
record once and broken it twice. Most recently she cleared
15'2 1/4" at the Olympic trials in July, overcoming weeks of
struggle with a new, longer pole and a case of competition
anxiety that compelled her to seek help from a coach schooled in
sports psychology. In Sydney, she soars, and everybody else
COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY SKY'S THE LIMIT The 29-year-old Dragila hopes to rocket to another world record--and win new fans for a first-time Olympic event.