Greek teenager Emmanouil Karalis finished fifth in the pole vault at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 earlier this year, clearing 5.80m – a height only one other U20 athlete in history has ever bettered. The 2015 world U18 bronze medallist explains how he got hooked on the pole vault and what keeps him motivated.
“My Dad (Haris, former Greek record-holder) was a decathlete and he wanted me to become one too, so he started me off with the pole vault because it’s the hardest event.
I had done other sports like swimming, basketball, taekwondo and football when I was younger, but I liked the pole vault. It wasn’t scary; it was fun – grab a stick and get over something!
When I beat my Dad’s PB (4.80m), I said, ‘okay, Dad, that’s enough. I know what I’m doing now’.
A few years later, when I was watching the 2016 World Indoors in Portland with my Mum, I said, ‘Mum, I have to go. One day I’m going to jump at the World Championships’.
And in 2018 here I am and I got fifth place (at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018). My main goal there was just to have fun, and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t even realise there was prize money (US$6000).
Along with my main coach (Vasilis Megalomikonomou), I work with three other coaches – one specifically for the pole vault runway, one for weights and one for gymnastics. Of course, performing at this level means I can’t have late nights or junk food and I have to wake up early each day for my morning training sessions. I study sport management at university in Athens, so I have to balance my studies with six hours of training each day.
It’s a juggling act, but I don’t see all of these as sacrifices. They are my choices and it’s all worth it because I feel proud when I have the Greek flag on my chest. I feel blessed and grateful.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF