Pole vault star Kurtis Marschall eyes Australian record on path to Tokyo Olympic Games
There are few more dramatic sports than pole vaulting.
- Kurtis Marschall began pole vaulting as a 13-year-old
- He has already competed at the Rio Olympics and won Commonwealth gold
- He hopes to beat Steve Hooker’s 6.06m record and is a medal hope for Tokyo 2020
It requires power, balance and explosive athleticism, and it can be extremely dangerous — just ask Australia’s Commonwealth champion Kurtis Marschall.
“It is pretty scary when you are pole vaulting 5 metres in the air and then you see yourself and you are not over the mat, that is pretty scary,” he said.
“In one of my jumps in the Diamond League in Brussels I missed the mat and broke both my heels.”
That was a low point in what was an otherwise successful 2018 for the 21-year-old.
Marschall stole the limelight at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
His gold medal jump — and the personality and charisma he showed while doing it — automatically endeared him to the public.
He will be one of Australia’s major track and field medal hopes at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
But that seemed a long way off when he started pole vaulting as a 13-year-old who had spent his childhood in little athletics without excelling at any particular discipline.
In 2008, watching on television, he was inspired by Steve Hooker’s gold medal heroics at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Kurtis Marschall Instagram post: Picture of Kurtis jumping during pole vault competition
“I was like, ‘whoa what is pole vaulting? That looks so cool’,” he recalled.
Following in Hooker’s footsteps
It was enough for a teenage Marschall to give it a go.
He jumped just 2 metres in his first session as a teenager at a come-and-try day in Adelaide, but it was the beginning of a journey that has already taken him to an Olympic Games in Rio, Commonwealth gold on home soil and now a move to Perth, as he aims to better the lofty benchmark set by Hooker.
The 21-year-old is following a very similar path to Hooker.
Marschall has joined the world-leading pole vault program at the West Australian Institute of Sport, the same move Hooker made after winning gold at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
The lure is to be coached by the revered Alex Parnov, who guided Hooker to gold in Beijing and has also helped Paul Burgess and Dmitri Markov reach the elite 6-metre mark.
Marschall wants to be the next Australian to do it.
“Alex is the man to take me there. He has coached multiple world champions, Commonwealth Games champions. It is the resume you want as a coach,” he said.
Another 20 centimetres to go
The difference between Marschall and Hooker’s personal best is 20 centimetres. It does not seem like much, but it is enormous in the world of pole vault.
Jumping around that mark will give Marschall a chance to compete with the best.
“Steve Hooker’s PB is 6.06, that is the Australian record, Alex’s group record and it is the highest jump by an Australian ever, so [the first goal] is to get to 5.90, next is 6 metres, and then one day hopefully see what happens,” he said.
“It [seems] tiny but it is huge in the scale of things.
“I just need to submerge myself in Alex’s routines in his training programs and that sort of thing, and if you sell yourself to that and trust in the process and believe in what your coach has given you, I think the path is pretty clear.”
‘We’ve followed the same path’
It helps that the man he is trying to emulate is also happy to offer him advice.
“It is good to have him [Hooker] in my back pocket,” Marschall said.
“We have followed the same path, but I also want to kind of achieve the things that he has achieved.
“Steve has been there and done that with all this sort of stuff, so it is pretty valuable to have him.”
The blueprint is there for Marschall. Australia will watch to see how high he can go.