Stuart Weir did this piece, 1/2 on British PV star Harry Coppell…
7 Questions for Harry Coppell
1. How did you get into pole vaulting?
When I was about nine or ten, I was a really hyper child so I was taken to our running club. I didn’t really want to go because I didn’t like running. When I went, I instantly started jumping and throwing before settling on high jump which I did for maybe two years. Then one day I saw the pole vaulters training and here I am – how many years later?
2. Could you explain the strategy of pole vaulting – jumping or skipping bars?
It really depends on your own philosophy and, at the end of the day, your strength as a vaulter. Sam Kendricks, for example, takes every bar but that isn’t because he’s insecure or that he doesn’t think he cannot skip bars but because he knows he’s capable of taking 12-15 jumps in a competition, with all being top quality. For a lot of people involved, vaulting takes a bigger toll on the body. Because Sam is comfortable producing a series of high-quality jumps, he will do that. Personally, I try to minimize jumps because, for me to jump high, I need to be on quite strong poles and running quite fast and, particularly in the shape I was in this year with outdoor unlimited training, I wasn’t in a position to do that repeatedly throughout a competition. In preparation for next year we have upped the running and things so hopefully coming into the 2021 season I can have the ability to rep out jumps more and more so that if it takes 12 jumps to win the competition, I can do it.
3. What kind of poles do you use?
Poles are measured into two main ways – the length and the flex rating. The flex rating: number indicates how bendy a pole is. The lower the number the stronger the pole. I am on five meter poles at the moment and I am working on a flex range of 14 to 12.5. So in a competition I would start with an easy pole, perhaps, 13.9. As you progress and get to the bigger bars, you move through the poles. This year I was normally finishing with a five meter long 12.7 flex pole. But you can’t come straight from warm up and start with that pole. You need to grow in confidence through the jumps to get to a pole like that.
4. Your PR is 5.85. What would it take to get to 6m?
Good question. That is what we’re trying to figure out that the moment. It’s quite an exciting time for us [Harry and coach, Scott Simpson]. We have come from a place where I was just trying to get to the British record which I achieved with the 5.85. Having done that, we can now have the conversations about how do we get to the next bars. The current situation is that it could take a six-meter jump to medal at a major championship. And that is definitely where we’re aiming to get to eventually. But I still have quite a lot of room for maneuver. I am still on five-meter poles while most other people on the circuit are on 5.10 poles or even 5.20. I am also on a reasonably short run up – 16 strides instead of the more usual 18 or 20. But then there’s a lot of different factors that come along with changing, which we will have to maneuver around. I would love to say that it’s as easy as taking 20 steps with a 5.20 pole but I think it’s going to be quite a long journey but we’ll find out.
5. What are your plans for winter 2020-21?
We’d been very lucky to be able to access the training center in Loughborough even during the second lockdown. At the moment the entire focus is on training. In the New Year I am looking at doing a full indoor season. Because I’m changing run-ups and poles, indoors would be a good opportunity, in a conditioned, stable environment, to practice and try things out.
6. Did you enjoy vaulting with the women at Lievin in February 2020?
Unfortunately, I didn’t jump very well that day but it was an amazing experience to be part of. I think at one stage we had Mondo and Sandi Morris both attempting world records, which was just insane. There are, in fact, quite a number of male and female pole vault only competitions like the La Perche series. It’s great for us because we get to compete and watch a pole vault competition at the same time. But if they could do that more in stadium events or even championships where you would have the men and women vaulting at the same time, it really would be a sight to see.
7. What you do away from athletics?
Unfortunately my hobbies are quite expensive – not that pole vault isn’t! I love cars and I have a car at the moment that I want to do a lot of work on – a Toyota GT 86, which is easy to work on and quite fun. At one point, I started doing lessons towards getting my pilot’s license but I’ve not been able to do any more on that because of everything that’s going on. And it costs a lot of money for lessons. Those are my two main hobbies, things I’d like to do more of.