MonacoJust a few weeks after winning the Olympic Pole Vault title, Tim Mack took the next logical steps after winning the World Athletics Final: join the still very much exclusive six metre club, and then, take an unlikely stab at Sergey Bubka’s World record.
It took the 32-year-old Cleveland, Ohio native three tries before he became only the twelfth man to clear the six-meter barrier. Only six men have ever vaulted higher than his 6.01 world-leading height.
“Right now it feels really good,” said Mack, who upped his personal best to 5.95 to strike Gold in Athens. “I was having a real difficult day [technically], but I was feeling really good today. I knew this was the place I could jump very high, given the good conditions. Today the winds were behind me, which were great conditions. So I knew I could jump high. There are just so many variables that you have to take care of and it just took me until 6.01 to figure it out.”
But when virtually any other vaulter would have called it a day, Mack, it appeared, had only just begun.
“I had a plan to go to 6.01,” he said. “The conditions were good, and that worked. In Berlin, when I went to six meters, the conditions switched. But here they stay the same. But I really wasn’t prepared about what to do afterwards, and it took me a little while to figure out. Do I want the American record [6.03]? Do I want to try to be the second highest jumper of all-time [6.05]? Or do I want the World record?”
He ultimately decided on 6.16, after consulting his fellow competitors.
“A lot of them told me, ‘look, you don’t get conditions like this everyday. So, when it was coming from them, I changed my mind and went to 6.16. Because I wanted to take some shots at it.”
After a pair of liftless attempts, he made several adjustments before his third, which was surprisingly good. Suddenly, the term ‘Bubkaesque’ doesn’t seem as otherworldly.
“The last jump felt great!” Mack continued. “I needed that to be my first jump. If it was my first jump I could make adjustments. It’s hard to have one attempt at the World record.”
“I wasn’t really afraid of the height,” he added. “It’s a big change, but when you’re really focused on making certain steps, the height doesn’t really come into play. It’s just a little bit higher than you’re used to jumping.”
Reflecting back, Mack said the finest season of his career has all gone along to plan. “Early in the season I was doing some really good things, but I just wasn’t clearing very high bars. But I had height for 5.90 and six metres. And I was always coming down on the bars. But as the season progressed, my coach and I made some adjustment, my training kind of went down a little bit, which made me feel more fresh.”
With that sort of momentum, Mack has added one more appointment to his agenda, next Thursday in Yokohamah. “I was supposed to jump high at the end of the season, and right now I’m jumping great.”
Already looking ahead, to next year, Mack said he will stray little from the plan that has thrust him to the top of the pole vault world.
“I expect to build off of this season and I expect to stay healthy,” he said. “That's key number one. I have to continue training the way I've been training the past three years, because I've been healthy the last three years. When you put together three years of training with no major injuries, there's no substitute for that. Everything’s finally starting to come out of that.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF