Let’s remember unforgettable European Champs 19 years ago.
It’s August 14, 1994. It’s the second day of decathlon on the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki 1994. It’s the eighth event – pole vault. A man of great experience, the Frenchman Alain Blondel is struggling with 5.20. He’s cleared 5.00, decided to pass 5.10 and is facing his third attempt on 5.20. Blondel is concentrating hard. But just at that very moment it starts raining. No, not just raining but pouring down. Despite the downpour Blondel clears the height.
There are only two men left in pole vault. The Frenchman and Estonian Erki Nool. Average and weak vaulters weren’t caught in the rain, they managed to score their points, but top vaulters finish 20 or 30 cm below their usual results. Blondel hasn’t got a championships medal yet. Not a single one.
The bar is set to 5.40 and Blondel has a chance to show his competitors what he’s capable of. He wants his performance to be perfect. He’s standing on the runway, trying to dry the pole, but it’s no use as it’s still pouring down. There seems to be no end of the rain – it’s been getting even worse. One can hardly see the runway or the bar on TV. Only a real professional would be able to use any kind of technique in those conditions. Blondel’s personal best is 5.40. If only he could clear 5.40, he might be able to clear 5.60 as well.
Blondel is standing at the far end of the runway, holding the pole. Thousands of anxious people both on the stadium, packed in raincoats, and in homes, in front of their TV sets are watching his every move. And there he goes! He goes over the bar, lands on the soaked pit, water splashing in each direction and performs a winner’s somersault.
Nool, who had earned a miss at the same height, is eyeing his competitor’s performance. Nool is shaking his head, drops of water flying all around. The cameramen are filming him up close. His whole posture seems to say that it’s not possible that Blondel cleared the height. With this jump Blondel demonstrated that he is not only a tough competitor but also a winner at long last. He is the European Champion!