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article imageOlympic pole vaulter Toby Stevenson talks pole vault, success Special

By Markos Papadatos     Sep 19, 2017 in Sports
Lexington - Olympic silver medalist Toby Stevenson chatted with Digital Journal about his respected career as a pole vaulter for Team USA, and as a Assistant Coach at the University of Kentucky.
In August of 2004, Stevenson won the silver medal in pole vault at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, after he cleared 5.90 meters. "I thought it was really cool, since Greece was the origin of the modern Olympic Games. Going over there to Greece and seeing the original stadium was the icing on top of the cake," he said. "It made it real special since all of the medal winners got olive wreaths put on their heads, and that was really cool. I still have them. They dried and they are in a frame."
With his personal best of 6.00 meters, Stevenson is one of only five American athletes to reach the six meter club in pole vault history, along with Tim Mack (6.01 meters), Brad Walker (6.04), Jeff Hartwig (6.03 meters), and most recently, this past June, Sam Kendricks (6.00 meters). "That was great! That was obviously a pretty big milestone that I hit, and I was just lucky to do it," Stevenson said. "I was at the competition where Sam [Kendricks] cleared six meters, and he made it look pretty easy. He's one hell of a pole vaulter."
Stevenson is coaching track and field at the University of Kentucky. "Coaching is going great," he admitted. "I love it. The University of Kentucky is amazing. I had a national champion [Olivia Gruver] last year in the women's pole vault, so that was pretty exciting. She is going to be really good!"
When asked what motivates him every day, Stevenson responded, "To not suck." "The coaching level is getting so high, and the athletes are getting good, and for me, I don't want to be a bad coach. My goal is to serve my athletes to the best of my ability," he said. "All I want is for my athletes to be successful."
Digital transformation of track and field
On the impact of technology in track and field, Stevenson said, "The new technology in the doping realm is great. They are able to find new things. It's good that they are advancing their technology to level the playing field. The technology in pole vault really hasn't changed much. They try to come out with new poles, and it seems that the interest level in track and field is getting a little bit better. There is more excitements, and there are improvements in general. There are also bio-mechanical analyses on speeds and velocities. With all of the technologies, you need to have a coach that can interpret them, and then, interpret it to the athlete. I have to be a filter. I think about pole vaulting 24 hours a day, on how to make each athlete better. I have to coach each athlete separately. There is no pole vault model."
For aspiring pole vaulters, he said, "Hard work always pays off. Not immediately, but it is guaranteed. Have fun and play! It's a circus act, that's all it is. If it wasn't in track, it should be in the circus."
"Success is the feeling you get at the end of the day. You can lay down and fall asleep, and you have nothing to think about. That happens, maybe, two times a year," he said. "Success is accomplishing something I had set out to do. It sounds kind of simple, but that's what it is: planning the step, taking the step, and then, not looking back at the step once you've taken it."
He also had the greatest remarks about female pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi, whom he coached back in his days at Stanford. Stefanidi was the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in Rio de Janeiro, and the 2017 World Champion in London. "Katerina is doing great! We still chat. I love her to death. I am so happy for her success. She is awesome," he said.
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