Pole vaulting was known to the ancient Greeks, and the Cretans used long poles to vault over bulls. The Celts used to pole vault - but for length. This event became a vertical jump in Germany around 1775, during gymnastics competitions.
The year 1850 saw the first competition of "running pole leaping". The heavy, rigid poles were made of ash and the athletes climbed them as they jumped.
In 1889, the Americans banned the movement of the hands along the pole and invented the technique of reversing the legs upwards, clearing the crossbar with stomach facing down.
In 1900 lightweight bamboo poles were used for the first time, remaining in use for several decades (the last world record using bamboo was Cornelius Warmerdam's long-standing 4.77m in 1942), and the receiving 'box' for the pole was also introduced. In 1957 another American, Bob Gutowski, used an aluminium pole to set a world record of 4.78m which was broken in 1960 by Don Bragg (USA) who used a steel pole to clear 4.80m. This period also saw the introduction of landing mattresses which meant improved safety for competitors.
The fibreglass pole, which permitted flexion and has revolutionised vaulting technique, saw the light of day in the USA in 1956. The first world record using this material was set in 1961 by George Davies (USA) with 4.83m.
Although women's pole vault performances have been registered since 1911, the event has only been taken seriously - with the Chinese in the vanguard - in the last few years.
The IAAF began ratifying women's world records in 1995 and the first official international championship was staged at the 1996 European Indoor Championships with Vala Flosadottir (17) of Iceland the winner at 4.16m.The event became part of the World Indoor Championships programme for the first time in 1997 and outdoors two years later. The gold medallist was the same at both competitions: Stacy Dragila from the United States.