Sorry, but I do not believe your so-called scientific tests involving vaulting poles of different materials proved anything at all as far as pole-vault results are concerned (He Could Do It on Bamboo, Feb. 26). It does not matter whether or not a fiber-glass pole has or has not more resiliency, vibration, etc., than a wet noodle. The only "foul" claimed by antifiber-glass people is the excessive catapult action provided by a fiber-glass pole.
Your test in that department involved a 20-pound weight, in which case the fiberglass pole flipped the two-pound beanbag 7� inches higher than the closest competitor, bamboo. Simple arithmetic would suggest that in the case of a 160-pound human "beanbag" this factor would be multiplied eight times, giving the pole vaulter using fiber glass at least a five-foot advantage over vaulters using poles of different material. Today's advanced science should be able to test the vaulting poles under actual field conditions.
KENNETH M. GORSHKOW
The current uproar about the fiber-glass pole overlooks the many occasions in track and field history where improved equipment (or changes in rules) has effected much greater advances in world records. When the wire-handled, swivel-head hammer replaced the ball with wood handle some 70 years ago, the hammer throwers added about 40 feet to the prevailing mark. In 1912 the discus circle was increased from 7 feet to 8 feet 2 inches, immediately increasing the world record by about 10%. In 1930 the restrictions on the high jump were removed, permitting the dive technique that all jumpers now use. The hurdle races of today are not the same as those before 1935 when the heavy fences were replaced by the L-head hurdle (later the rocker hurdle) and the rules were changed to permit any number of hurdles to be knocked down. The high-hurdle mark promptly came down .6 second.
And how about starting blocks?
GEORGE P. MEADE
I have used both steel and fiber-glass poles to advantage; I vaulted three years with Aubrey Dooley, who I think did the most to popularize the fiber-glass pole; and I watched George Davies work for two years.
My best competitive jump up to the time I started using one of the old-type fiber-glass poles was 14 feet 8� inches. Within three weeks on fiber-glass in 1957 I was regularly clearing 14 feet 6 inches in practice, higher than I had ever cleared before in a practice jump. Our first meet was an indoor one at Kansas State University. I was feeling very good that night and was warming up at 14 feet. On my second warmup jump, I got everything out of the pole that it was capable of giving. At exactly the right instant the pole unwound and catapulted me way up over the bar—and clear over the pit where I landed on the hard clay floor and broke my left wrist. As you can plainly see, I know from experience that the fiberglass pole docs give an extra boost.
Here is my own comparison of the two types of poles. Steel-pole advantage: a more solid foundation on which the stronger individual may exert the force of the pull-up. Disadvantage: does not absorb the shock of the initial impact, therefore it is harder on the lower back, especially for the taller vaulter. Fiber-glass pole advantage: absorbs the shock on take-off, therefore allows a smoother swing and does not put as much strain on the back. Disadvantage: inconsistency in performance. At times the arc of the tremendous bend in the fiber-glass pole is misdirected and gets in the vaulter's way, or as Aubrey Dooley used to say, "Gets out from under me, there was nothing to pull against."
To me, this argument is just like the livelier baseball controversy. There is a change in the poles but the fundamentals of vaulting have not been altered. A man still has to master the techniques before he can use any pole, and, in my opinion, it is more difficult to master the fiber-glass pole than it is the steel pole.
JAMES G. (JIM) GRAHAM D.V.M.
I wonder what effect a fiber-glass bat would have on today's baseball?
ARTHUR W. SILVA
Santa Maria, Calif.
Personally, I am willing to congratulate anyone who vaults 16 feet, even if he uses a fishing pole.