Eeles Landström - Otsikkoeeles@landstrom.infotähtitaivas

Vantaa 01.10.2007

Becoming a champion by using tactics

When pole vaulters are equal concerning their results, only successful tactics can bring victory. I myself have achieved all my medals from prominent competitions in a tie. In these situations it was the tactics I used that made the difference. The rule change that the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) later made has substantially reduced the importance of tactics, and thus the pole vault has lost something essential as an event. The pole vault is not only strength, speed and technique; there is competition between mental resources as well.

Tactics form an essential feature of the pole vault, because in competitions, a tie is more a rule than an exception. If tactics are not given a chance, an essential part of this demanding individual event is lost.

Means of tactics have consisted of, for example, choosing a suitable starting height, choosing heights to pass, minimizing the number of missed heights and clearing the highest height on the first attempt.

Skillful use of tactics is based on self-knowledge and intuition. Decisions made during a competition are absolutely the athlete’s personal feelings on the circumstances in general, as well as knowing the competitors and oneself at that specific moment. You must be able to sense and evaluate the condition of the fellow competitors, and on this basis, proceed with your own competition plan. Technical skills, however, must in all conditions be the result of long-term, well-planned practicing.

Planning and changing tactics must be flexible activity: Different options must be considered beforehand, and of course, also together with the coach. It is, however, wrong to imagine that a coach could help in the use of tactics in the actual competition event. Tactics do not consist of orders but sentiments. The coach’s instructions or orders may in some situations even disturb the athlete’s competition performance. Choices can be offered, but it is the athlete him/herself who makes decisions in the situation. Thus this event differs from team sports, where the coach alone is responsible for the tactics used.

The medal not won
When the pole vault competition in the Rome Olympics (1960) had ended, Ronaldo Cruz, whose final result was the same as mine, congratulated me with these words: "Eeles, we have won a bronze medal." As Cruz realized that he would actually be fourth in the competition, he was totally stunned. Cruz's mistake is understandable, because in the U.S.A where he studied at the moment, all but the winner with the same result are always positioned at the same place.

For me the situation in the Rome competition was clear all the time, because I had strictly followed my tactics. Clearing the highest height on the first attempt is very important, as this competition showed.

Time limit
The world’s longest pole vault competition was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian Relay in 1959. There were over 30 competitors, and the competition started about at 10 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m., the world record holder Robert Gutowski and I still competing for victory.

Through examples like these, it is understandable that the International Association of Athletics Federation has taken measures and made rule changes in order to avoid such long competitions. The time limitation exists for speeding up the competition and that way avoiding extra long competitions.

According to Mr.Kari Wauhkonen, Competition Manager for the Finnish Athletics (SUL), Sergei Bubka, world record holder and a board member of the International Association of Athletics Federation, pursued the time limit (Lex Bubka) energetically. According to his suggestion, even a five-minute time limit for preparation is necessary. In this case there would be a situation with only one contestant left in the competition. Limiting the time to one or two minutes would take place when two, three or more contestants would be left. If the time limit is exceeded, it means that the attempt has failed.

The time limit rule is good, but unfortunately the IAAF rule change overrules it.

A rule change for consideration
According to the International Association of Athletics Federation, the number of jumps is no longer taken into account when defining competition results; what matters is the number of misses and clearing the highest height with as few attempts as possible. According to prevailing rules, it is practically not possible to use tactics anymore. In my opinion, IAAF could, through its member Ilkka Kanerva, take the rule change into reconsideration. This way the duration of competitions would become shorter and the use of tactics would become important again. In my opinion, interest in pole vault would return to what it used to be – both among the athletes as well as the audience. Mr. Jukka Uunila, the grand old man of sports, commented on my pole vault tactics issue as follows: ”Not a single line has been written on the subject - it’s about time someone did.”


Tie situations in pole vault

Ties shall be resolved as follows:

(a) The athlete with the lowest number of jumps, at the height at which the tie occurs, shall be awarded the higher place.

(b) If the tie still remains, the athlete with the lowest total of failures throughout the competition up to and including the height last cleared shall be awarded the higher place.

(c) If the tie still remains:

(i) If it concerns the first place, the athletes tying shall have one jump at the next height, after the height last cleared by the athletes tying, and if no decision is reached, the bar shall be raised 5 cm, if the tying athletes were successful, or lowered, if not. They shall then attempt one jump at each height until the tie is resolved. Athletes so tying must jump on each occasion when resolving the tie.

(ii) If it concerns any other place, the athletes shall be awarded the same place in the competition.

Source: IAAF Competition Rules 2008

Eeles Landström

Born January 3rd, Viiala, Finland
Bachelor of Science, Michigan University 1959
Business executive, former member of the Finnish parliament
Double European Champion (1954, 1958)
Bronze medalist in the Rome Olympics (1960)
Finnish Champion 1953 - 1960
Nordic Champion 1961
25 successive wins in international competitions
13 Finnish records
3 European records
Australian record 1956

Tie result medals to Eeles Landström in prominent competitions:
Bern EM 1954 - gold, (silver: Ragnar Lundberg, Sweden)
Stockholm European Championships 1958 – gold, the only medal for Finland in these games. (Silver: Manfred Preussger, East Germany, and bronze: Vladimir Bulatov, the Soviet Union.)
The Rome Olympics 1960 – bronze (4th place Ronaldo Cruz, Puerto Rico).
(The only track and field medal for Finland in these games)

Eeles Landström

Translated by Sari Pippuri, with the exception of “Fact corner: Tie situations in pole vault” (Source: IAAF Competition Rules 2008)