Pole Vaulting Closes Waterhouse Street
Tim Edwin talks about his 1971 exploits
By Liz Warriner
In 1971, Morton Evans, internationally renowned pole vaulter and coach, held a special event in the Water Gardens to promote the new fibreglass poles from America. Tim describes the exciting atmosphere and his role in this unique show.
I was a child gymnast but got into Pole Vaulting in my teens. Pole vaulters need a fast run up, good upper body and abdominal strength and acute aerial awareness. I learnt using a light aluminium pole and transitioned to a Swedish steel one. Techniques for a rigid pole(bamboo, aluminium, steel) differ a lot from those for fiberglass poles the Americans started to use in the 1960s. I got one at 18 and spent five months learning to use it and developing the new techniques. My club, Hemel Hempstead Athletic, used facilities at Cavendish School where the PE teacher, Morton Evans, ex Welsh pole vault champion, was their coach. Later he became a national pole vault coach.
I joined Polytechnic Harriers, who trained at the Chiswick Athletic stadium. This top division club gave me high level competition. Other members included Alan Pascoe, Colin Campbell, Andy Ripley, Bob Frith.
At the same time in Hemel, with Morton Evans, we built up a vaulting centre based at Cavendish using conveyor belts from coal mines as all-weather surfaces, landing areas made of scraped foam rubber car seats from Vauxhall’s Factory in Luton and swinging stands that moved easily to adjust bar positions. Hemel’s pole vaulting club was called the ‘Pole Cats’ after the second generation of fiberglass US Vaulting Poles called Cata-Poles. Many top athletes came to practice on our state of the art facilities. Mike Bull, Britain’s first five metre vaulter and competitor at the Mexico Olympics, regularly came from Belfast to stay with us so he could train there.
Around 1967, the UK athletics board acquired an inflatable landing bed which was called ‘cloud nine’. Originally installed in a hangar at RAF Stanmore for indoor training facility, Morton Evans acquired the bed for the centre at Cavendish school.The demonstration day in the Water Gardens in Hemel also used this as the landing area. It took most of the day and some of the public were invited to have a go. We held a pole in the vaulting box (sunk into the ground),volunteers ran up, grabbed hold of it at a point marked with a handkerchief and we pulled them, holding the lower end of the pole, into the landing area. In the afternoon there was a demonstration event.
As well as vaulting for Polytechnic Harriers and Hemel AC, I represented Hertfordshire AAA Counties, Southern AAA Counties and England Athletics AAA in various national competitions and University competitions. I have taken part in the British Games and also National Indoor events which where frequently held at RAF Cosford.
As a student, I lived in Germany and in Norway where I also vaulted and also helped with pole vault training. I had a best mark in competitions of 4.5 meters and have cleared 4.8 meters in training