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Bruce Caldwell shares details about pole vault, track and field (Includes interview)

“Kanstet USA is an opportunity for me to provide full 200-meter banked tracks with my partner Valeri Bukreyev, two-time Estonian pole vault Olympian and owner of Kanstet LTD Estonia,” Caldwell said. “I can now bring faster surfaces as made in Europe to the USA in the forms of a VSS-1 Portable Track, a VSS-1 Portable Platform Runways and VSS-1 Roll out-runway. VSS-1 was used as the surface in Portland Oregon for the World Indoor 2016.”

Caldwell was also the founder of ESSX poles. “As I looked at the pole vaulting marketplace, I saw many poles that returned too quick and others that just did not time well or hold up durability for many athletes young or experienced. Making a pole just like everyone else made no sense, so I looked for things others were not doing to build a different pole, one that was sturdy, easy to move from one to another, and one that would give athletes the pop on top they seek. These are the things other say their design does, but do not seem to deliver all in one pole,” he explained.

He shared that he started his public company, ESSX Sport Corporation, in 1998, where he raised funds to build landing systems and bought equipment to build vaulting poles. “Our Board of Directors consisted of Earl Bell, Dwight Stones, Alberto Caberlotto, and many athletes and coaches to help us build better products.”

“We started from the ground up with ESSX and made small poles then longer ones and then made the top vaulters poles,” he said. “Our goal was to help vaulters get the tools they needed and develop the ideas we had to help them enhance their talents. The public entity was sold off and the pole vault operations went private and moved to Fort Worth, Texas.”

Caldwell continued, “In 2004, we had top athletes jumping on our poles and using our landing systems. Athletes included Olympian Kellie Suttle, Tracy O’Hara, and Tye Harvey. We had to make a pole durable and light and I needed some help with UST-Mamiya Golf in Fort Worth with special carbon materials and a place to improve the equipment. They bought the manufacturing equipment and allowed me to market and sell the ESSX poles. That agreement ended without renewal in 2016. I miss working with my customers. I always wanted to help them get the right product fast and all in one piece.”

Love and inspiration for pole vault

When asked about how he got into pole vaulting, he said, “I use to swing on clothesline poles before dryers were in the norm. I measured how far I could swing out and kip for distance. I think those motor skills helped me find the technique to be a pole vaulter and I jumped high at Raytown South High School in Missouri, went on tuition scholarship to CMSU Warrensburg where I jumped 15 feet and eight inches.”

On his love for pole vault, he said, “I want to help vaulters get the tools to enhance their jumping. I always state that the best pole in the world is the one you can get, and I did my best to help vaulters get the tools they needed. The second-best pole in the world is the one that fits best and times well. Fitting vaulters to poles was my forte, and with a few questions, I was able to suggest the best size to fit them and the ones to move to.”

“Most recently, I had provided the right poles for many top athletes including my friend, reigning world champion Sam Kendricks (and Olympic bronze medalist), and Pawel Wojciechowski, champion of Poland in 2018, and many other top athletes as well as high school, college and master jumpers.”

Scott Kendricks  Sam Kendricks and Bruce Caldwell

Scott Kendricks, Sam Kendricks and Bruce Caldwell
Photo Courtesy of Bruce Caldwell

For aspiring pole vaulters, Caldwell noted that it can be very fun. “It will give you the social skills and the all-around fitness development other sports do not offer,” he said. “I find it amazing to see vaulters excelling in other sports, contest.”

He also shared that pole vaulting builds sportsmanship. “Sam Kendricks is bringing the word ‘Sport’ back to Sportsmanship in the pole vault and this is starting to trickle down to athletes all over. I am proud of him, and the way he has become a great ambassador to the sport of pole vault,” he said.

Digital transformation of track and field

On the impact of technology in track and field, Caldwell said, “Technology is helping running dynamics on runway surfaces such as VSS-1. Vaulting poles are becoming more durable and responsive, discuses are flying farther and becoming stable as well as durable, such as the new RimGlide, the first discus distance rated.”

“Shots and hammers made with new tough ductile and plug free are being developed to get more kinetic energy,” he said. “There will be new concepts within the next month introduced to enhance throwing. All that combined with the study of nutrition and bio-mechanical studies to enhance and improve performances, the future has a lot to offer to track and field.”

On his use of technology in his daily routine, Caldwell said, “Special pole tips are designed to create a greater angle in the box for the pole will allow one to use a stiffer pole. Stiffer pole usage can help one to jump higher. Polyethene plastics and foam padding is used to make a Rock-Back pole case that creates its own padded tube when it is zipped up to protect the poles when zipping up with protection.”

He continued, “Shot Hammer bag has a Polyurethane wall to allow two hammers or two shots to be carried in a backpack, with wheels and a handle to roll behind rather than lifting. Special high strain to ratio carbon composites hybrid with fiberglass with high hoop is used to build poles to be durable yet flexible. Discus is made with PMD, a protective plate mechanism, to prevent damage when thrown and galvanized rings to increase hardness and durability. Formulated running surfaces greatly reduce Hamstring pulls and shin splints and increase running dynamics.”

Caldwell concluded, “In 1974, I took a lot of photos and questions with many top pole vaulters such as Kjell Isaksson, Bob Seagren, Dave Roberts, Terry Porter, Jan Johnson, and Steve Smith, sharing this information along with illustrations made by top artist and vaulter Dave Bussabarger. David and I produced a book to share these ideas and drills called The Elusive Bar second edition. David and I are currently working on the third edition of The Elusive Bar that will be free to the public. To learn more about this visit The Right Pole website.”

To learn more about Kanstet, check out its official homepage.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 20,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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